A YORKSHIRE-based entrepreneur has warned that Britain could be talking itself into a recession, after his business sealed a $2.1m (£1.33m) order to round off a record month.
Scarborough-based Unison, which is a world leader in the specialist field of tube-ending machinery, is seeking more staff after securing a contract from a US-based firm linked to the truck industry.
Marketing director Peter Wilkinson said: “We are Scarborough’s best kept secret. We have exceeded last year’s order book in the last month and 2011 was a record year.”
Alan Pickering, Unison’s managing director, added: “All this is on top of a £3m order book which was secured in December and January. We are looking to recruit several people in design, electrical and machining to cope with the current order book.”
Unison, which has 40 staff and turned over £3m last year, already supplies tube-bending machines which are used to make parts for Wal-Mart shopping trolleys and Chinook helicopters. It hopes to build a critical mass of engineering talent on the Yorkshire Coast, and move to larger premises within the next two years.
Unison helped to develop the Boeing Dreamliner, which is lighter and more fuel-efficient than other aircraft.
One of the company’s customers, Airbus in Filton, near Bristol, uses six of Unison’s machines to produce bent tubes in the wings of aircraft including the super jumbo A380.
If Unison continues to expand at its present rate, it may have to double the workforce within the next two years.
The company wants to encourage more local children to consider careers in engineering.
During Scarborough Engineering Week last October, the company attracted hundreds of students. However, Mr Pickering believes that the education system could do more to get children ready for a business career.
On Friday February 24, representatives from Unison are meeting local headteachers at an event organised by Grimsby Institute to talk about issues linked to engineering and education.
Mr Wilkinson added: “We already have five apprentices and we are looking for three more.
“The defining moment for Scarborough will be when the proposed pot ash mine opens, because that will create thousands of jobs and potential competition for workers.”
Last month, Sirius Minerals, which plans to build a potash mine between Whitby and Scarborough, revealed that it was raising £50m through a share placing to speed up the drilling programme on the site.
Since the acquisition of the York Potash Project in January 2011, Sirius has drilled two boreholes and confirmed the presence of three seams of potash mineralisation. Sirius believes the proposed new mine could lead to the creation of around 5,000 jobs. Sirius recently appointed the former business secretary Lord Hutton to its board.
Mr Pickering said yesterday: “The US came back strongly in the last quarter of 2011.
“ All our customers are exceptionally busy. We already have five apprentices and are looking for three more.”
Mr Wilkinson added: “There’s a danger of talking ourselves into a recession through the media. The £3m order book in January included orders from Brazil, Singapore, South Africa and Angola. In terms of sales, it’s certainly not doom and gloom.”
This year, Unison will be investing £100,000 in marketing. Representatives from the firm are due to attend shows in the UK, Germany, America and Canada.
The latest order has been secured from a US company that supplies Freightliner Trucks and has three bases in the US.
Engineering an occupation
LEADING members of Scarborough’s business community are doing their bit to encourage more local children to become engineers.
Around 1,000 Yorkshire students took part in Scarborough Engineering Week 2011, which was held last October. The event showed that there was more to engineering work than “rags and spanners”.
Scarborough has historic links with car production, and the event in Scarborough Spa included many automobile products, ranging from a wooden 1920s coach that had been rebuilt by apprentices from Bluebird Vehicles, to a Formula 1 racing car.