Oxley Developments is one of Cumbria’s manufacturing success stories.
The business employs 174 people designing and making LED lighting systems and high-specification electronic equipment for the defence and aerospace markets.
Customers include BAE Systems, Boeing, Saab, Thales and Lockheed Martin.
The company was set up in 1940 producing capacitors for the military. It moved to Ulverston soon afterwards and has been based on the edge of the town at Priory Park, Bardsea, since the 1950s.
Latterly, operations have been split between Priory Park and two sites in Furness Business Park, Barrow, an arrangement that Oxley realised was unsustainable given rising cost pressures.
Jayne Moorby, Marketing Manager, said: “We wanted to consolidate at one location to reduce overheads and make manufacturing more efficient.
“Having three sites, one in Ulverston and two in Barrow, meant we had products, equipment and people constantly moving up and down the A590.
“Lighting and systems had been in Ulverston, and components in Barrow. Combining them in one place allows us to multi-skill people across both areas.”
Crucially, manufacture of electromagnetic interference (EMI) filters, for defence and aerospace applications, took place in Barrow.
Oxley is the last UK manufacturer of planar arrays for EMI filters – the others having moved production to the Far East – and the company identified a growth market in the defence sector where buyers are reluctant to source from Asia.
But the company was using outdated processes. The relocation to Ulverston was an opportunity to invest in new technology, including a low-fire oven, which is more cost effective as it reduces the amount of precious metal required for the manufacturing process.
Oxley turned to the Chamber’s business support arm, Cumbria Business Growth Hub, to facilitate the move.
The Growth Hub helped the business to apply for an £84,000 Cumbria Growth Fund grant towards the £1m project.
Jayne said: “We were awarded the grant in February last year and started the process then.
“We had preparation work to do at Priory Park because we needed to put in new electrical systems and relocate some activities to make room for the operation coming up from Barrow. We also created a new canteen.
“We did it in three phases and moved out of Barrow in April this year. The last piece of equipment was delivered a few weeks ago.
“As a logistical project, it has gone really well.”
The grant safeguarded 42.5 full-time-equivalent posts by ensuring that production of EMI filters remained viable.
Jayne said: “Without the grant, we’d still have wanted to make these changes but we wouldn’t have been able to do it as quickly. We’d have lost market advantage and there are certain things we wouldn’t have been able to do.”
One of the units in Barrow vacated by Oxley has since been occupied by the engineering business SN Group, which was also looking to consolidate on one site – moving existing operations from Barrow and Millom.
Cumbria Growth Fund was set up after Cumbria Chamber of Commerce took part in a national competitive tendering process to secure £4m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
Manufacturing businesses have been able to apply for grants of between £10,000 and £1m to support growth and competitiveness.
The minimum when applying directly to an open round of the RGF was £1m – ruling out many smaller projects.
Cumbria Growth Fund has supported 44 businesses with £3.8m of grant funding, helping to create or safeguard 520 jobs and leverage £25m of private sector investment.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information click here.© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce