Industrial revolution of Black Country starts again

From nuts and bolts to recording studios, the new industrial revolution of the Black Country begins today.

It has been revealed that eight more companies have won grants worth £238,186 as part of the Green Shoots Fund set up by the Express & Star and the University of Wolverhampton.

The money, from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, will enable them to take on dozens of new staff by investing in new equipment and innovative projects that will allow them to take on more work.

green-shoots

The latest recipients are Clarkwood Engineering in Wolverhampton, Process Fabrications in Willenhall, Venture Pressings in Cradley Heath, Longwear Alloys in West Bromwich, Total Construction Supplies in Willenhall, A&T Enclosures in Dudley, Thompson Audio Visual Communications in Wolverhampton and Windowtech Interframe in Aldridge.

They follow four other recipients announced already: Oldbury-based Gilca, Techniswage in Smethwick, Adams Enclosures in Brownhills and Phoenix Cutting Services in Wednesfield.

Windowtech will use a £26,000 grant to develop its machines. And Thompson AVC, which works with the likes of construction giants Carillion and Balfour Beatty and Wolverhampton brewer Marstons and has big contracts with Dunelm Mill and Virgin Trains, will create a professional audio visual studio and editing facilities with a £27,788 grant.

Process Fabrications works with aerospace, metal treatment, odour control, water and waste water, air pollution, exhaust ventilation, plastic fabrication and rubber lining.

It wants to move further into waste-to-energy markets, targeting big firms such as water companies and the aerospace industry. The fund has cross-party support from MPs.

Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden, a former business minister, said: “This is not just funding for business as usual. It’s something that is going to help companies to grow and, in turn, help the Black Country to grow.”

Dudley South Conservative Chris Kelly added: “These companies make the most fantastically useful things that we all want to use and it is great they now have the vital financial support they need. New jobs will be created and opportunities extended to younger generations.” The project is also being backed by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, made up of businesses and council leaders.

Fasten on to growth opportunity

Tom Priest on a lathe at Clarkwood Engineering in Wolverhampton, which has won a huge £50,000 cash boost
Tom Priest on a lathe at Clarkwood Engineering in Wolverhampton, which has won a huge £50,000 cash boost

Power plants, railways, bridges and wind turbines – they would all be utterly useless without the nuts and bolts that hold them together.

Wolverhampton-based Clarkwood Engineering has been in the fastenings business since 1974. Now the family-owned firm, which employs 66 people, is about to create another four as it develops its new product, TensCon, with help from the Express & Star Green Shoots fund.

The company is based in Sunbeam Street, named after the world famous car and motorcycle maker.

Clarkwood supplies fasterners, nuts and bolts for everything from the gas industry to steelworks, engineer builders, the nuclear industry, power plants and railways.

Its TensCon indicating washer is considered to have vast potential and be something that is required throughout the world. Wind turbines alone require between 300 and 400 bolts each.

The product ensures that nuts and bolts can be tightened as far as they will go. But the new Tenscon washer needs a special machine to be built which will be able to fully assemble varying sizes of bolts at the rate of 300 per hour. After 18 months of research and development, Clarkwood is now ready to go into production.

The machine will be the first of six planned machines. The remaining five are intended to be bought using the profits generated by sales of the TensCon. It is going to cost Clarkwood £208,000 to get started, with help of a £50,000 grant from Green Shoots.

Stan Ceney, technical research and development manager, said: “The Green Shoots funding allows Clarkwood to accelerate growth for the patent pending TensCon Load Indicating Washer project, whose potential is for a worldwide use. This will not only safeguard jobs but this advanced fastener technology will create local jobs, helping the local as well as the national economy in export markets.”

Next step is for us to join the export market

Jason Wright and Ian Smith at Longwear Alloys, where they have been given some of the Green Shoots Fund from the Express & Star
Jason Wright and Ian Smith at Longwear Alloys, where they have been given some of the Green Shoots Fund from the Express & Star

The melted metal and steel stir memories of how the Black Country was once the titan of heavy industry.

While the steel industry employs nowhere near the numbers it once did, it is still big business for the likes of Longwear Alloys.

The company has been making melted ingots since back in 2002 and employs 15 people.

The foundry was originally commissioned to produce cast parts for the cement and quarrying industry.

It has now evolved to supply to the investment casting industry, which in turn supplies aerospace, surgical implant, power generation and numerous engineering companies too.

What it wants to do now is join the export market, showing the world what something that is made in Britain is all about.

To do that it needs new pieces of kit and some specialist industry training for staff.

Altogether, the West Bromwich-based company intends to invest £48,000. The Express & Star Green Shoots Fund has awarded the company £14,496 towards it. The project will create at least two jobs.

Quality manager Colin Hunt said: “This will help us to do more with the aerospace industry. “It means we can upgrade our chemistry facility and meet the calls for ever more exotic alloys.

“We need to use an industry-wide quality management system known as AS9100 which is used on the continent and across the rest of the world.

“The machinery will mean we can analyse up to 30 elements rather than the 17 our existing machine can do.”

Together

The project is to purchase a spectrometer together with sample preparation equipment. It will also mean a new engineer with technical and administrative support can be taken on.

By being able to analyse more elements, Longwear Alloys will now be able to venture into the more sophisticated alloy markets, which include iron, nickel and cobalt base materials.

Speed and accuracy bettered

Copper fitter Martin Hall working on a job at A&T Enclosures, which is on Grazebrook Industrial Estate in Dudley
Copper fitter Martin Hall working on a job at A&T Enclosures, which is on Grazebrook Industrial Estate in Dudley

A&T Enclosures in Dudley has taken on apprentices and graduates and trained them to be the next generation of manufacturing experts.

Three new skilled jobs, as production operatives, will be created thanks to a £29,717 grant from the Green Shoots Fund. The money will help towards a £98,400 project to buy a new press brake machine and assist with the cost of installation and electrical works

A&T Enclosures makes cabinets and consoles, bus bars and motor control centres at its site on Grazebrook Industrial Park. Its new project will increase the speed, accuracy and efficiency of production.

Overseas work coming back

Venture Pressings, Cradley Road, Cradley Heath
Venture Pressings, Cradley Road, Cradley Heath

Venture Pressings in Cradley Heath only began work in November 2012 but it is already at full capacity in the production of clips and seals.

Its project, funded by Green Shoots, will focus mainly on band boards production.

These are are the steel strips used as strengthening devices on scaffold boards.

The company also wants to upgrade its toolbox production. The band boards need to be made to order to meet the demands of individual customers.

The grant of £17,400 will mean the company can also bring back custom that has been going to overseas companies, as more and more people remember the quality of British, and specifically Black Country, workmanship.

Safeguarding

Natwest Bank turned the newly-established company down for a loan.

But the Green Shoots Fund is providing it as a grant, which will create five jobs as well as safeguarding a further two.

The company is taking on three members of staff as well as two apprentices

Stuart Parkes, finance director for the Cradley Road firm, said the company was doing well.

“We’re a new company and that put us in a Catch-22 situation,” he said.

“We needed the funding but we also needed to be able to supply the bank with a lot more financial information than we were able to give them, due to the relatively short time that we’d been going.

“We spotted potential in the market and we went for it,” he said. “We’re doing well and the plan is to take on three staff as well as two apprentices,” added Mr Parkes.

 Jobs created as production rises

Work is under way at Total Construction Supplies on Boundary Industrial Estate on the firm’s new Swiftform product
Work is under way at Total Construction Supplies on Boundary Industrial Estate on the firm’s new Swiftform product

Total Construction Supplies is going to use its Green Shoots funding of £22,785 to work on a product it believes will be massive in the building industry.

Five jobs will be created and three will be safeguarded as a result. But eventually a further 10 are on the horizon.

The Wolverhampton company, employing 40 people, formed in 1998 and recently moved to larger premises on the Boundary Industrial Estate in Fordhouses.

One of several new products it has developed is called Swiftform, which cuts down on waste concrete.

The company aims to market the new Swiftform product across the UK and Europe.