Britax to celebrate 50-year milestone in resort

BRITAX has its sights set on new worldwide markets such as Russia and the Middle East as the firm prepares to mark a key milestone.

How the Britax headquarters looked during the 1970s. The company has been on the same Bessingby site for the last 50 years.

The commercial vehicle safety products company, a major employer in Bridlington, will have clocked up 50 years of continuous production in the town in September.

However, the company can trace its history back even further, to 1946, when it began production on a kitchen table at a house in Yeadon, Leeds.

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Yorkshire metallurgist Philip Metcalfe Godfrey Thorpe was the founder, and PMG Thorpe, as it was known then, began producing wiring and electrical equipment for a growing automotive market in the immediate post-war years.

Names like Austin, Morris, Wolseley at Hillman were the best sellers and the industry was ordered to export the bulk of its production in order to obtain Government-controlled raw materials.

As the company expanded land was developed around Mr Thorpe’s home until, in 1963, there was nowhere else to build. So an empty factory in Bridlington, on the Bessingby site the company still occupies today, was acquired as part of an initiative to attract permanent employment to seaside towns and areas heavily dependent on seasonal work.

Three years later, Britax, the car safety equipment manufacturer, took over the company, now trading as Britax PMG Ltd.

As manufacturers of amber hazard warning beacons and light bars for emergency vehicles and the makers of auxiliary and mandatory vehicle and lighting mirrors for all types of construction and off-highway vehicles, the company has an annual turnover of £30m. Exports account for almost half of this figure.

Major customers include JCB, Caterpillar, Massey Ferguson, New Holland, Case and Komatsu.

Marketing manager David Timms said: “The 2008 recession hit us hard but as quickly as we went into it, we came out of it. There has been a very strong recovery in the markets we operate in and I would say we are as strong now as we have ever been.

“The future looks very bright and we continue to push for new and developing markets overseas.

“We export strongly to the USA, Scandinavia and eastern Europe as well as the Far East and have offices in India and China.”

Mr Timms said current initiatives are centred on opening up new markets in Russia and the Middle East, particularly in the United Arab Emirates.

“Russia is a massive market and the demand for agricultural machinery is huge, with so much land under cultivation.

“We have sales teams going out to these places and what we find is the British reputation for quality and reliability counts in our favour.

“The strength of the Bridlington operation is the skill and flexibility of our workforce and the quality control and rigorous testing that is carried out. Our reputation is paramount.”

With the growth in demand for LCD lighting, new and improved products are coming on stream all the time and Mr Timms says the current workforce of around 220 is the highest it has been for some time. Production processes are being modernised on an ongoing basis and there has been significant investment in the Bessingby site in recent years.

“We have a loyal and highly skilled staff, some of who have been with us 30 and 40 years. We remain, however, one of the town’s best-kept secrets and this anniversary has been the perfect opportunity to shout about ourselves,” Mr Timms said.

Managing director Mike Rayner said: “Our long association with the town has seen many challenges as world business patterns and customer expectations change, but we continue to grow and develop through new products and facilities as well as the skills and experience of our work- force.

“I am also very proud of the dedication that continues to be shown by our committed workforce and the integral role we play in the local economy.

“As with every business, I am sure the coming years will continue to present many challenges, however I am confident in the knowledge that the team at Britax PMG have the capability of successfully meeting these challenges and that we will remain an integral part of local Bridlington life.”