THhe man who has reinvented the fortunes of what is now one of the North East's most successful engineering companies has spoken of his delight at being named this year's North East Business Executive of the Year.
Andrew Hodgson, chief executive of SMD, picked up the top honour at last week’s awards dinner, sponsored by Brewin Dolphin, after one of the most successful years in the Wallsend firm’s history.
He claimed the overall regional title ahead of Durham and Wearside winner Wayne Edy and Teesside champion Steve Pearson at the event at the Gosforth Marriott.
Since the former BAE Systems strategy director was brought in to lead the company in 2008 after private equity investor Inflexion acquired a 60% stake, its fortunes have been transformed, with turnover more than trebling to around £130m.
The business has witnessed significant growth across all its key business areas, including remotely-
operated vehicles, trenching, mining, renewables and nuclear.
Staff numbers have doubled from 250 in 2010 to more than 500 today, and Hodgson is particularly committed to supporting apprenticeships.
As well as the day job at SMD, Hodgson has thrown himself into the North East business community; he holds positions on the board of the North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership and chairs the industry body Subsea North East. His exporting prowess was recognised with a prestigious Queen’s Award.
Upon accepting his award, Hodgson said: “Winning The Journal’s Business Executive of the Year award is not only a huge honour for me but it also pays testament to the company and recognises the exceptional work of our team.
“I am delighted to accept this award and am grateful to the judges who picked me out of such a strong field of business executives here in the North East.
“As a company we have achieved significant growth in recent years through the penetration of international markets and new and existing industry sectors, which has enabled the continued expansion of our workforce and investment in new facilities and innovative manufacturing processes.”
Hodgson, who also won the Tyneside and Northumberland heat, has taken SMD upwards in a big way.
His most recent success was the £90m sale of three massive undersea mining machines the size of buildings to unearth diamonds, gold and copper from Far Eastern seabeds.
The proud Cumbrian, who comes from five generations of Workington steel makers, said there are very few companies in the world who have the technology to go a mile under water and extract these materials from volcanoes.
This will be the world’s first deep water sub-sea mining project and work is scheduled to start at the end of next year.
The company’s growth has seen it expand its manufacturing capacity in the region. This year it opened its fourth factory at the Oceana Business Park, Wallsend, also close to SMD’s Turbinia Works head office and heavy production facility.
The new plant has been specifically designed to house the construction of three Nautilus subsea mining vehicles and has created a further 12,000sq ft of workshop space.
Hodgson said the company has invested millions of pounds in working capital and bringing new products to the market in the last 12 months.
It became the world’s number-one supplier of the remote-operated vehicles that replace divers in deep waters in 2010 and is experiencing a boom in the renewable energy market.
As well as his North East Business Executive of the Year title and his recent Queen’s Award, Hodgson was winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the North region in the private equity backed category earlier this year.
Roll of honour
1984: Ian Gregg, chairman, Greggs, Newcastle.
1985: Peter Cussins, chairman, Cussins Property, Newcastle.
1986: Bent Henriksen, managing director, TSL Thermal Syndicate, Wallsend.
1987: Sir John Hall, chairman, Cameron Hall Developments, Wynyard.
1988: Sir Peter Vardy, chairman, Reg Vardy, Sunderland.
1989: Bernard Robinson, managing director, Tallent Engineering, Newton Aycliffe.
1990: Ian Harris, managing director, Bonas Machine Company, Gateshead.
1991: Dr Ralph Iley, managing director, Cookson Group, Newcastle.
1992: Karl Watkin, managing director, Crabtree, Gateshead.
1993: David Goldman, chairman, Sage Group, Newcastle.
1994: Chris Thompson, managing director, Express Engineering, Gateshead.
1995: Robert Kilsby, managing director, Edwin Trisk Systems, Sunderland.
1996: Guy Readman, chairman, Tor Coatings, Birtley.
1997: Jim Johnson, managing director, Stadium Group, Hartlepool.
1998: Lorna Moran, chief executive, Northern Recruitment Group, Newcastle.
1999: Alan Robson, joint managing director, Rotrax Engineering, Middlesbrough.
2000: Alan Noble, executive deputy chairman, Northgate plc, Darlington.
2001: Mike Browne, chief executive, ScS Upholstery, Sunderland.
2002: John Sands, executive chairman, Pubmaster, Hartlepool.
2003: John Cuthbert, managing director, Northumbrian Water, Durham.
2004: Paul Walker, chief executive, Sage, Newcastle.
2005: Sir Michael Darrington, managing director, Greggs plc, Newcastle.
2006: Gordon Banham, chief executive, Hargreaves Services, Esh Winning.
2007: John Clough, chief executive, Eaga, Newcastle.
2008: Tony Trapp, managing director, IHC Engineering Business, Riding Mill, Northumberland.
2009: David Harker, chief executive, Durham County Cricket Club, Chester-le-Street.
2010: Stewart Smith, executive chairman and owner, Ramsdens Financial, Middlesbrough.
2011: Bill Scott, chief executive, Wilton Group, Middlesbrough.
2012: Andrew Hodgson, SMD, Wallsend.