AN Ulverston firm is defying the credit crunch and boosting the Furness economy by moving into a £12m factory with a production area the size of a football pitch.
The keys to the new factory will be formally handed over to Tronic on Monday.
Tronic, which is now part of the Expro oilfield services group, currently employs 275 workers but the new plant is big enough for the workforce to grow by nearly 200 to 450 over the next few years if the firm’s undersea products stay in demand.
Management, administrative and IT staff began moving in this week but it will be several months before workers from its plants around Ulverston are all at the new site. The firm, whose workforce is mainly from Ulverston and Barrow, but includes workers from Millom and Lancashire, is looking for 15 more skilled staff which will take the workforce to 290.
Mark Jones, general manager of Expro Connectors & Measurements, said: “Everyone is really excited now that it looks like a building and not a building site.
“It has been finished to a very high standard by the builders and is ready to go.
“Handing over the keys is a significant milestone in the history of Expro’s Tronic products. Over the last 30 years, we have built up a world-class business as a leading manufacturer and supplier of reliable subsea connection systems.
“Now we will have a base to truly match our capabilities and reputation.
“I am confident the site will be a great success and help the company continue from strength to strength.”
However, Mr Jones added that the firm was now being more cautious about future growth predictions because of the credit crunch, as the effects were still being measured.
The factory will make a range of undersea power and communications electrical connectors needed for offshore oil and gas fields around the world.
The 45,000-square-metre site in the Low Mill Business Park – the historic site of the old Low Mill tannery – will consolidate Expro’s Connectors & Measurements division’s operations in Ulverston.
Tronic is currently spread over six buildings at three different sites in the town, including the former headquarters in Sandside Road.
The new production area is the size of a football pitch, while the factory has an advanced climate control system which will remove dust and moisture from the air.
The system also maintains a constant temperature and humidity and there are better conditions for staff, including shower cubicles for those who cycle to work.
The site employs rainwater water harvesting technology for use in areas like flushing toilets, and has solar heating.
The move coincides with the 30th anniversary of Tronic, which was founded and run locally by former shipyard engineer John Alcock and later bought by Expro.
To maintain its heritage, Expro has established links with the Sir John Barrow School in Ulverston to allow pupils to tour the facility to compare the links between industry, old and new.
Pupils have also been invited to submit themed drawings or paintings to line the walls of the new premises, as well as to propose
suitable names for meeting rooms.
Eric Wrights Ltd of Preston, built the factory, overseen by Merchant Developments. Michael Eyres Partnership owns it and has leased it to Expro for 25 years.