A LEADING Tyneside manufacturing firm, which exports 88% of its products to 69 countries worldwide, has confirmed its commitment to further growth in the North East.
Washington-based Walker Filtration has said it is buying more materials in the UK than it did the year before in a bid to support the country and the region’s manufacturing sector.
The air filter manufacturer is looking to increase its £25m annual turnover across the group by 10% this year as it targets growing markets in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
Walker, a family business with 220 staff across the group, received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade for the fourth time last year. The company was founded by company chairman Brian Walker and his wife Carol in 1983.
They were succeeded by daughter Lianne, who became group general manager in 2005. Lianne’s sister, Barbara Palmer, also remains in the business as senior executive.
They have built up the company which now exports to 12 more countries than in 2006 when it had 114 staff, and have increased export sales by 127%. The company’s most recent export breakthrough is to the Turkish market.
Walker said: “We’ve built a great alliance with a distributor in Turkey over the last 12 to 24 months.
“We’ve really been making sure our penetration in existing markets is as thorough as it possibly can be.
“In terms of new territories, we’ve been looking at expanding our offering in South America, Asia and the Middle East.
“We’re working closely with the local colleges and universities as we’re really keen to develop young manufacturing talent in the region.
“Last year we trained seven apprentices, three of whom progressed through our apprenticeship scheme and have gone on to further develop within the business.
“And we are actively recruiting three manufacturing apprentices right now.
“Manufacturing is something I am passionate about and it will take this country out of recession.
“Despite our commitments the world over, we want to make sure we keep our business in the North East.” The firm makes and exports a wide range of standard and specialist bespoke compressed air filters and dryers which are used to remove particles, oil aerosols and water vapour from compressed air.
Its filters can be used in different industrial applications from automotive to food and drink as well as in sterile applications for the medical market.
As well as its headquarters in Washington, the business exports through two overseas bases in Australia and the United States.
“Australia was buoyant in 2012, but it has started to slow down this year,” said Walker. “However, we did see 15% growth in the UK market as we provide our filters to factories, and manufacturing in the UK is on the up compared to what it was.
“Of all the regions, we’ve seen more significant growth in the North East and that is partly down to the fact we’ve got a good distributor on board.”