UK first for expanding Express

As part of its continued expansion, precision engineering operation Express is investing £1.5 million in an unique piece of machinery for its sixth Tyneside factory. The investment comes after the company secured a £600,000 Let’s Grow grant from the BE Group.

The multi-tasking Mazak machine is the first of its kind in the UK and only the second in Europe. It will allow Express to make new components whilst ensuring that the existing products for the oil and gas exploration and extratction markets are produced more efficiently.

The purchase is part of a £6.5 million investment programme for the year which has also secured additional turning and milling machines from Scotland. All will be installed at the new 32,000 sq. ft. site between Kingsway and Princes Way on Team Valley – the lease for which was signed last week.

An additional 30 jobs are being created by the investment, bringing the number of people employed in the company’s oil and gas business to 315. There are also 85 working in the Aerospace and Industrial Product divisions at Stokesley in North Yorkshire and 100 in Brazil, where Express owns and operates Petrotec.

Said Express Group Chief Executive, Nigel Davison: “With over 150,000 sq. ft. of operational space, equipment unique to the UK and a new assembly and testing centre recently commissioned, our oil and gas business is ready to move to the next level.

“Following a structural re-organisation we now have the capability and capacity to produce new components and move into new markets with new customers. It is a very exciting time for the business, which shows that our decision to invest during the recession has paid dividends. We are certainly in a much better position to take advantage of an improving worldwide economy.”

A capital injection from mid-market private equity investor LDC – which took a minority equity stake in the business – late in 2013 added impetus to the Express acceleration, as did the successful application for grant funding from the Let’s Grow fund. The LDC deal allowed the management team to capitalise on highly positive growth dynamics in the international oil and gas sector.

John Garner, Director and Head of LDC in Yorkshire and the North East, added: “The outlook for the oil and gas market is compelling and there are very few businesses in the sector with Express’ quality of service, breadth of capability or global footprint. We are delighted to be able to support the growth of this venture.”

Tony Edwards, a partner from Baker Tilly in Sunderland, who advised Express Engineering on the successful application for grant funding said: “This investment programme was made possible, in part, thanks to the Let’s Grow fund award by BE Group and underlines the importance of this type of Regional Growth funding to businesses across the North East.”

Express has already been singled out as ‘one to watch’ in a league table of the country’s fastest growing firms. It is the North East’s only representative on a 10 strong list of operations tipped to break into the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 – the UK’s top 100 private businesses demonstrating the most rapid expansion.

A 58% increase in exports over the past two years saw the business climb to 52nd in the International Track 200 table whilst a 250% growth in turnover over the same period (now at £37 million) and the subsequent increase in profit, saw Express rocket to eighth place in the Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 league table.

This puts the company ahead of well known national brands such as Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian, biscuit manufacturer Tunnocks and Pret A Manger.

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