Record sales for Arco, as MD hails Hull investment

Thomas Martin, joint MD of Arco
Thomas Martin, joint MD of Arco
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THE head of Arco has hailed the decision by Siemens to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in offshore wind power in the East Riding as the biggest business story of his 50 years in Hull.

Thomas Martin, joint managing director of the workplace safety group, said the £310m plan to create new wind turbine factories is “fabulous for this generation and fabulous for the next generation”.

The move by the German multinational is expected to create 1,000 new jobs at two new manufacturing plants and 5,000 more in the supply chain.

Mr Martin made the comments as Arco, one of Yorkshire’s largest family-owned companies, announced record results for the last financial year, with sales up 2.5 per cent to £249m and operating profits up 7.6 per cent to £11.5m.

Despite the strong performance, he said the market in which Arco operates is still very fragmented and he raised concerns that the economic recovery is still largely based on consumer spending.

He welcomed growth in the manufacturing sector as “good news for UK plc” and said confidence is returning to construction, but added that business investment in general remains too low, although the Siemens’ project is providing a major boost for Hull’s economy.

Mr Martin, who turns 50 in July, said Arco is investing £6.5m this year. “That’s going to fuel growth,” he added.

The company is growing its presence in the south of England and expanding its e-commerce platform.

Mr Martin said one of the great benefits of being family owned is that the business can plan for the long term.

Asked if he would consider joining the rush of initial public offerings on the London Stock Exchange, he said he has “a healthy and cynical distrust” of the way that the City and financial institutions operate and added: “over my dead body”.

Arco is 98 per cent owned by the Martin family, with the remainder owned by a couple of charitable trusts.

The senior management team has seen some new additions over the last year or so with Neil Jowsey replacing Nicholas Hildyard as joint managing director in January 2013 and David Evison joining as finance director in January this year.

Mr Evison came from J Sainsbury, where he spent ten years in senior finance roles in the non-food and convenience store divisions.

“It gave me really good experience in growing businesses rapidly, which will hopefully support the growth aspirations that Arco has,” he said.

Mr Jowsey told The Yorkshire Post that the group hopes to double in size between now and 2025 and has plans to grow its training business. Arco is the UK’s leading supplier of safety equipment, workwear, safety boots and shoes, gloves and maintenance supplies.

Mr Jowsey said the group is proud of the UK’s work on health and safety. “It has a great reputation worldwide,” he added.

Mr Martin delivered the keynote speech at last month’s Health and Safety Reform Conference and shared a platform with Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, who chaired an independent review into health and safety legislation in 2011, Alison Fryatt, of the Department and Work and Pension’s health and safety team, and Judith Hackitt, chairwoman of the Health and Safety Execu- tive.

A spokeswoman said Arco has also taken its ‘experts in safety’ message to key decision makers and influencers at the heart of Government.

“Since the commissioning of the Lofstedt review of health and safety legislation, there has been considerable debate on the subject of health and safety and some significant changes have been introduced. This has provided Arco with a platform to meet with MPs, Government ministers and officials in order to put forward the views of its customers and give them the opportunity to learn more about how these changes are perceived,” she added.

Arco has invested £500,000 in a product assurance laboratory in Hull to test footwear, gloves and high-visibility clothing to levels above current standards.