Engineering company Tharsus is tackling the challenging eurozone market head on after hitting £3m in export sales, accounting for 25% of the firm’s turnover this year.
The Hebburn-based firm topped the inaugural Ernst & Young Manufacturers’ League for its export performance and expects to see its revenues rise by around 60%.
After announcing plans to recruit around 80 more staff in the next couple of years, the firm is well ahead of schedule, having employed more than half of those already.
This year it expanded into new premises in Blyth, which has become Tharsus’ flagship site for finished product assembly.
Tharsus reported turnover of around £9.2m last year and chief executive Brian Palmer said it is operating at around £14m this year.
It employs roughly 150 people and is taking on workers affected by the wind-down of the Alcan smelter at Lynemouth.
Palmer said: “We export primarily to Europe, but all of the countries we export to have a UK footprint. We work with companies that operate globally and we’ve grown our export activity by 400% since 2010.
“It’s down to finding the right customers and customer acquisition. All of the customers we have are international businesses who are not just limited to a single territory.
“The key is developing a niche offering that we really believe in. We are now designers and builders of novel equipment which has won us contracts in a variety of fields.
“The business model is scalable and we’ve been really gearing up for this growth over the past four years.
“However, some areas have been disappointing. Caterpillar has laid a lot of people off, so for the second half of the year, some of our business with existing customers has been quite quiet. Because we’ve won new contracts we’ve been able to grow.”
Last year Tharsus received a £690,000 grant from the government’s Regional Growth Fund to help it expand.
In April this year it secured a contract with Ekko Glass Crush and Collect to create a machine for the efficient recycling of glass bottles. This will reduce glass waste volume by 80%, reduce noise pollution and improve worker safety.
The contract is for three years, with an option to add another two. Ekko is a Scottish company that works with customers including Network Rail and Mitchells and Butlers.
This week the firm announced it had won lucrative international contracts with security system giants Rapiscan and Safety-Kleen, which sells washing machine parts.
However, Tharsus had troubles of its own during the recession, reducing its workforce from 130 to 80.
Its subsequent growth has come as a result of its commitment to diversification.
“We lost a lot of people during the onset of recession,” said Palmer. “Our turnover dropped dramatically and we managed to turn it around eventually by looking at new markets.
“We haven’t lost any customers during this recession and we’re now managing to gain quite a few.
From beginning to end we’re almost an engineering and design consultancy with contract manufacturing included in that offering.
“It’s this broad range of services that has allowed us to strengthen our portfolio in the last year and win more contracts overseas.”