Mighty oaks from little acorns grow as the saying goes.
And that is certainly true of Newton Aycliffe company BTS Facades and Fabrications.
Back in 2009, the company was based out of a unit in Spennymoor, which was rundown with little facilities for the staff.
It was cold and dark – a far cry from the light and airy facilities the company is based out of today.
So, in 2012 they made the move to Aycliffe Business Park, initially based out of one unit before acquiring a second building to facilitate growth just a few years later.
And up until last year that growth showed no signs of slowing down. BTS had reached £8.3m turnover in the financial year 2019/20 and were featured in the North East’s fastest growing companies. With further investment committed last year, supported by a grant through Business Durham’s County Durham Growth Fund programme, the future was looking very rosy.
But then the global pandemic struck and like so many businesses around the world, BTS was forced to make some tough decisions.
Phil, who runs the business with his brother David, father Bryan, who is now a silent partner, and wife Marcia, said: “The past 16 months have been hard, it’s fair to say. When the pandemic hit we started losing money, some of our US investors pulled out and the cost of aluminium rocketed.
“We had no choice but to put our plans for growth on hold and sadly we had to make some of our staff redundant.
“That was so tough for us – no one wants to be put in that position but we had no choice.”
Although the pandemic saw turnover drop by around 35 per cent, the team refused to give up and gradually, as things began to return to normal, orders started coming back in.
The new equipment which the company had purchased – the County Durham Growth Fund committed £40,000 of grant towards a £150,000 spend – was critical, as it enabled a new product range to be produced much more efficiently and economically.
It means bigger orders can be fulfilled on site, with a significantly faster turnaround.
BTS Facades and Fabrications, which currently employs 42 people, supplies metals for window and cladding technology nationally alongside design and production services.
Marcia added: “We are in a much better position and in fact are currently trying to recruit more people to support with the orders we’ve secured. The biggest challenge we face now is not where the work is coming from, but whether we can get the materials we need.
“The price of aluminium remains so high which is a challenge as it’s a material we rely heavily on.
“Overall though, we’re feeling much confident now and feel like we’ve weathered the storm. It’s now about looking ahead and getting the business back to the point it was at before the pandemic hit.”
The County Durham Growth Fund is managed by Business Durham in partnership with UMi and is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). All successful grant applications are appraised by UNW LLP, an independent firm of chartered accountants and business advisers.
Sarah Slaven, managing director of Business Durham, said: “BTS Facades and Fabrications is a family-run business with its roots firmly in County Durham, so it’s very pleasing to hear that after a challenging 16 months or so, they are seeing growth returning and are actively adding to their workforce.”
Simon Allen, Investment Centre Director at UMi, said: “Because of the coronavirus pandemic, BTS hasn’t yet fully benefited from the investment secured through the County Durham Growth Fund. But now, as the market becomes more buoyant, the new equipment will be critical in the company winning orders and seeing turnover increase, which is exactly what it was intended for.”
John Healey, Corporate Finance Partner at UNW, said: “Resilience is a word we’ve heard used a lot during the pandemic, but it certainly applies to BTS Facades and Fabrications, which is now looking to a positive future once again after seeing a real downturn in business due to Covid-19.”