A year of expansion for Wearside’s big firms

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, right, with Port of Sunderland director Matthew Hunt.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, right, with Port of Sunderland director Matthew Hunt.
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JANUARY

The year gets off to the perfect start with news car parts warehouse and distribution company Vantec is set to create 200 new jobs.

John Seager, chief executive of Siglion.

John Seager, chief executive of Siglion.

The company, which moved on to Sunderland’s Turbine Business Park in February 2013, wants to build a 34,000 sq ft unit next to its existing base.

And car parts manufacturer Calsonic Kansei is also expanding, opening its fourth site on Wearside by taking over the former 2 Touch site in Doxford International’s Camberwell Way.

Calsonic has invested £800,000 in transforming the building into a 100,000 sq ft warehouse, bringing the company’s total floorspace in the city to more than half a million square feet.

There’s more good news from Seaham-based MetroMail, which is creating at least 10 jobs as it continues to expand.

Launch of the North East Automotive Alliance: (from left) Sunderland City Council  Leader Coun. Paul  Watson; Iain  Wright MP for Hartlepool; Lawrence Davies, Automotive Investment Organisation;  Paul Butler,  CEO NEAA;, and Kevin Fitzpatrck VP of NMUK and chairamn of NEAA

Launch of the North East Automotive Alliance: (from left) Sunderland City Council Leader Coun. Paul Watson; Iain Wright MP for Hartlepool; Lawrence Davies, Automotive Investment Organisation; Paul Butler, CEO NEAA;, and Kevin Fitzpatrck VP of NMUK and chairamn of NEAA

Managing director Alan Purvis says: “Every year we’ve seen our business grow and we’re now in the position where we need to add to our workforce in several key areas of the company, to ensure further growth in 2015.”

The man who will spearhead the drive to regenerate some of Wearside’s most high-profile sites is ready to go.

John Seager is the new chief executive of Siglion, the joint venture company set up to oversee the development of major sites including the former Vaux Breweries, Seaburn and Chapelgarth.

“It’s a real opportunity to do something that will be personally rewarding,” he says.

TRW Peterlee plant boss Robin Finley

TRW Peterlee plant boss Robin Finley

It’s not all good news, however – the Centre for Cities’ 2015 Cities Outlook report ranks Sunderland as the lowest out of 64 for ‘business stock’, with 186 businesses per 10,000 people. The city is also second bottom for new business start-ups and patents registered.

The Black Cats are named among the 30 wealthiest football clubs in the world.

SAFC are 27th on the latest list of sides with the highest revenue, making £95.7million in 2014 according to figures from sports business company Deloitte.

One Wearside firm proves success can be bottled – Contract Bottling Ltd has doubled its employee numbers and now plans to expand even further, having invested more than £2million in equipment since 2012 and record sales. Now the UK’s leading specialist contract bottler, the firm has seen full-time employee numbers rise to 60 from 30.

Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton, with Coun Paul Watson, Vantec's Martin Kendall, and Paul Woolston at the new Vantec warehouse site

Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton, with Coun Paul Watson, Vantec's Martin Kendall, and Paul Woolston at the new Vantec warehouse site

FEBRUARY

Wearside furniture retailer ScS is sitting pretty after being given a £12million boost.

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking has provided a new funding package to support the firm’s return to the stock market on the back of steady progress since it was taken over by Sun European Partner LLP in 2008.

The Port of Sunderland is back on track, as its railway line returns to use after more than 20 years.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visits Wearside to see the results of the £600,000 Network Rail project for himself, with a locomotive running on the line courtesy of rail freight haulier DB Schenker Rail UK.

The North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership is achieving growth at one of the fastest rates in the UK.

Launch of new �7 million press extension at Nissan.

Launch of new �7 million press extension at Nissan.

The Office for National Statistics’ study on the performance of every local enterprise partnership in the country shows the region had the fourth highest growth rate in the country, at 3.3 per cent.

Bosses at Dalton Park reveal more names have signed up to move into the centre’s new £45million expansion, set to trigger hundreds of new jobs.

The owners of the Murton complex announce they will welcome Pizza Express and Prezzo to its phase two development, which will also include a Morrisons supermarket, petrol station, hotel, pub and seven-screen Cineworld cinema. The restaurants will join a drive-thru KFC and a Frankie and Benny’s diner which have already been confirmed as tenants.

Sunderland’s low-carbon enterprise zone has helped create more than 1,000 jobs across the region, new Government figures reveal.

The zone, centred on the Turbine business park next to Nissan, is one of three in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area, alongside Port of Blyth and the Blyth Estuary, and Port of Tyne and the River Tyne North Bank.

Nissan is to plough almost £3million into staff training as the Sunderland plant gears up to begin production of its first model for the car giant’s luxury Ininiti marque.

Chancellor George Osborne announces £1.4million of Government funding during a visit to the plant yesterday, which the company will match to create a £2.8million project to support intensive training for 1,742 staff.

MARCH

Council bosses are set to greenlight the first stage of two multi-million pound regeneration projects in Sunderland city centre. A meeting of the council’s cabinet will be asked to approve plans to lease the former Crowtree leisure centre site to The Bridges shopping centre owners Pavilion and a half-acre plot next to the new Keel Square to the Newcastle-based Cairn Hotel Group.

A new organisation to put the North East car industry in the fast lane sets up shop in Sunderland.

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), which brings together manufacturers and suppliers, will be working with member companies to tackle strategic issues that individual businesses can’t address and aims to improve skills and training, showcase the region’s industry, and attract government funding and involvement.

Contractors are left thousands of pounds out of pocket after the firm building Sunderland’s new Premier Inn collapses.

Work on the £7.5million Hind Street development grinds to a halt as builder GB Building Solutions and parent company GB Group Holdings call in administrators. City businessman Steve Lynn, who is owed around £200,000, says: “This will virtually wipe me out.”

More than 100 workers at two Wearside firms are facing redundancy in a double jobs blow.

Staff at Deptford-based waste recycling firm Alex Smiles, which employs more than 80 people, are sent letters warning they could soon be made redundant, because of the company’s inability to pay creditors and its loss of working capital while 34 staff at a Washington branch of car accessory firm Maccess face losing their jobs, after the company goes into administration.

City leaders hope an ambitious blueprint to put Sunderland on the map could see up to £1billion invested in the city.

The 3,6,9 Vision sets out a cultural and economic plan for Sunderland between now and 2024. Each year will have a specific theme to celebrate landmark events, including the arrival of the Tall Ships Race in 2018.

More than 40 jobs are lost with the closure of Peterlee vehicle parts manufacturer Ferschl Tubeform.

The firm, based on the town’s South West Industrial Estate, goes into administration after six years of losses and efforts to find a buyer are unsuccessful.

APRIL

Two North East construction companies join forces.

Gentoo Construction and Tolent put pen to paper on a deal which sees them create a new joint venture company, to be known as Gentoo Tolent Limited.

Peterlee car parts manufacturer TRW announces plans for 300 new jobs within three years – 100 of which will be created in 2015.

Plant manager Robin Finley says: “Our site is experiencing a substantial and sustained increase in demand for our products, which will see us undertaking major growth between now and 2018.”

Barclays announces plans to create 200 new jobs at its Doxford site with the launch of a centre of excellence for fraud detection, the first of its kind in the UK.

Workers will handle calls from the bank’s customers across the world whose accounts or cards have suffered potential fraud.

Leighton group boss Paul Callaghan says the challenge for Sunderland is to create a city for the 21st century.

Speaking at the launch of Siglion, the new company charged with regenerating the city, Mr Callaghan says the firm’s developments should leave a legacy similar to that created 100 years ago.

“We need buildings that not only have a purpose and utility but also that, in 100 years’ time, my grandchildren’s grandchildren will cherish,” he says.

A historic brewery which closed more than a decade ago is set to see its beers pull in punters once again.

Castle Eden Brewery was originally opened in 1826 but closed in 2002 due to changes in trading, with production moved to Camerons in Hartlepool.

Now it will brew again after businessmen Cliff Walker and David Travers decided to open a micro-brewery in Seaham, creating six jobs.

MAY

Dozens of jobs are on course to be created as a Wearside hotel development expands.

After the opening of a £500,000 golf driving range and academy, the Mercure Newcastle George Washington Hotel is to build a new entrance canopy, upgrade its front facia and create a new breakfast room, as well as a 120-cover restaurant and lounge.

Barclays reveals plans to create more jobs on Wearside.

The firm announces plans to create 75 new apprenticeships for young people in the North East over the course of the years, 65 of which will be based at the Doxford International contact centre.

The first phase of a multimillion pound riverside development is completed. The developers of Freeman’s Reach in Durham have open Wearside House, the first section of the £27million regeneration project in the city centre. The building is the new North East home of National Savings and Investments (NS&I) and its 400-strong workforce, will shortly begin the transfer from its current home across the River Wear in Milburngate House.

Council bosses agree a deal which will see work start shortly on the Wear Crossing linking Pallion with Wessington Way.

City council leader Coun Paul Watson says: “We cannot overstate the massive economic, social and community impact this project is bringing. This is a project of massive significance to everyone in Sunderland and across the North East.”

Car parts giant Vantec will create more than 100 new jobs with a third warehouse development on Wearside.

Vantec Europe Ltd’s £23million development in Washington will be the largest-ever overseas project for its Japanese parent company.

JUNE

Specialist outsourcing company ExamWorks UK is set to create more than 40 jobs this year after moving into new premises on Rainton Bridge Business Park. ExamWorks UK, which delivers independent assessment-based healthcare services to the NHS and Government to enable medically-informed decision making on Continuing Healthcare (CHC) and Disability Assessment Claims, has taken 8,860 sq. ft in Franklin House.

Online retail giant Amazon is to create more than 220 jobs with the opening of a new base on Wearside.

The company will employ 20 people directly at its new delivery station in Cherry Blossom Way, Washington, and it is working with nine delivery firms which will be hiring around 200 drivers across the North East.

Nissan’s latest investment will help to safeguard the future of its Sunderland plant for years to come.

The car giant is installing a £37million new press line at the Wearside factory – with a lifespan of a quarter of a century.

The importance of the automotive sector to Wearside is underlined with news car parts firm Unipres is doubling its intake of apprentices this year after agreeing to help raise awareness of careers in engineering among young people.

The Washington firm has signed up to a new Industrial Cadets initiative with four local schools, which will give students aged between 11 and 19 the opportunity to find out more about a career in engineering, and help create a pipeline of skilled workers for the future.

Port of Sunderland welcomes its first passenger-carrying ship in more than 15 years.

The MS Gann brings more than 140 tourists from Stavanger in Norway into the city, having previously visited the port for a training exercise.

See the Echo next week for part two.