Forging back to growth

Emma Simpson revisits one foundry boss who has seen a dramatic turnaround over the last four years

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Things are certainly looking brighter for foundry boss Frank Young.

The 74-year-old has had an incredible recovery after losing the business he'd built up over 30 years.

I first met him in 2009 just after he laid off dozens of workers at his factory in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

He was supervising the dismantling of machinery, heartbroken at the closure of the site.

When the recession hit, hundreds of manufacturing firms in the West Midlands went under.

Not many of them came back.

Start Quote

Frank Young

We're keeping the place really keen and lean so when we quote work we hope to be the cheapest”

End Quote Frank Young JT Castings

But Frank Young was determined to start again.

'Lottery'

His foundry is now thriving, whirring with the sound of machines producing an array of metal products.

"I feel like I've won the lottery, really I do. That's how I feel now we've got the factory back up and we're expanding again," he says.

His company, JT Castings, started back up with one customer. Now it has about 15, even winning back one order that had been lost to China.

And for the first time ever, it's manufacturing and assembling a complete product - a range of TV brackets.

"Our customers do seem to be ordering more now," Mr Young says.

"We have the feeling that things are starting to pick up a little bit in the UK and I feel that a lot of customers who left the UK, who went abroad for cheaper castings, I think they've decided now that a lot of them would like to buy British again."

Fight

It hasn't been easy. This is a business that now operates very differently than before.

There isn't anyone in the back office. And no bookkeeper or van driver, either. The company cars have long gone.

Now, a small workforce mucks in and does everything. They've had to fight for every order.

"We're keeping the place really keen and lean so when we quote work we hope to be the cheapest," Mr Young says.

Louise Davies Louise Davies: From foundry to nursing home and back again

In its heyday, Mr Young's company generated £6m a year with 150 staff. This year his turnover will hit £1m, with just 15 workers.

And those are former employees who have got their old jobs back.

Returning workforce

As orders picked up, Mr Young tracked down the men and women he most wanted to re-hire. All accepted.

Louise Davies was working in a nursing home when she got the call.

"I did think twice. But I just thought, take a chance and I'm glad I did to be honest," she says.

Mr Young's son, Gavin, runs the day-to-day operations. It's very much a family firm.

"Getting it back to where it was before I pass away would be a wonderful thing," Mr Young says.

They've come a long way in four years. There's talk of new products and orders, which could be a "game changer" for this small company.

If only the economy as a whole could bounce back as fast.

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