THE day after fire tore through Airedale Springs’ factory in Haworth, the company didn’t have two spanners to rub together, according to chairman Tim Parkinson.
The blaze at Ebor Mills in August 2010 destroyed everything that the Parkinson family and the company’s workforce had built up over the previous 65 years. The company, which had a turnover of more than £2m and employed 33 staff, looked like it would become another casualty of misfortune and the recession.
Two years later, the company, which produces springs for firms including Bentley and Flymo, is enjoying a dramatic rebirth after moving to a new home. It managed to survive after gaining support from the local community and even some of its rivals, who didn’t want to see a major local employer go bust during the worst financial crisis in decades.
Speaking at the official opening of the new purpose-built factory, at The Spring Works in Haworth, Mr Parkinson said: “To paraphrase a famous quote, ‘Never in the field of company misfortune was so much owed too so many by so few.’
“Without the help of you, the many, we, the few, would not be here today. We thank you for your support during our darkest times.”
According to Mr Parkinson, the months following the fire were extremely tough, and the firm had to survive from its own resources for 12 months.
Airedale Springs also benefited from “quite remarkable” support from its neighbours, Mr Parkinson said. It was allowed to use equipment at other spring makers’ premises. It also borrowed fax and coiling machines from other companies.
Mr Parkinson said: “I think the feeling of many was ‘there but for the grace of God’.”
The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, blessed the building and unveiled a plaque to mark the launch of the £3.5m factory and office premises, which replace Airedale Springs’ Ebor Mills factory. The ceremony was witnessed by the company’s 33-strong workforce, along with dozens of invited guests, including individuals, companies and organisations who rallied round to help Airedale Springs following the fire, when the firm operated from temporary premises and outsourced work to other spring-makers.
Mr Parkinson added: “The last 28 months have been a very difficult time.
“However, as Winston Churchill said, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’
“We have kept going. It has been a learning exercise for all involved. The business has survived, or rather been reborn, wiser and fitter than before.
“This building and its state-of-the-art equipment and environmental innovations are a testament to our collective faith in the company’s future and we are immensely proud of our new facilities.
“People have asked me how we survived. Many did not expect us to, some people think we haven’t and a few competitors wish we hadn’t. I put it down to heavenly support and human application.”
The bishop also paid tribute to the people who, he said, had risen above selfishness and rivalry to help Airedale Springs survive.
He added: “When you have a disaster, it becomes part of the story – and it is a remarkable story to come through the sort of experience you have here. You held a vision of rebirth because so many others, including competitors, pitched in as human beings as part of a community to help restart a business that had suffered so grievously. This is a celebration of that community.”
Airedale Springs was established in 1945 by Gordon Parkinson, followed by his son, Michael, who retired in 2000 after a lifetime in the business. He was succeeded by his two sons, Tim and Sean, who is the commercial director.
Over the next year, the company hopes to achieve a turnover of around £1.8m.
Tim Parkinson said yesterday: “To achieve this in such a short space of time is quite remarkable. We’ve got quite a story to tell.”