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Oldham family open £2.8m manufacturing plant in the town

An Oldham family today spoke of its pride at seeing the small gasket manufacturing business it purchased in the 1930s brought back to new £2.8M production facilities in their home town.

J A Harrison’s chairman Alan Shepherd, who has worked in the family business from 1952, expressed delight at its official opening event that the company’s state-of-the-art installation and headquarters now stand on land where three generations of his family grew up.

He unveiled the hi-tech installation – supported by the Dept. For International Trade North West and Business Growth Hub, both within The Growth Company – at a celebratory business brunch attended by Mayor of Oldham Shadab Qumer and Leader of Oldham Council Jean Stretton.

The business’ move to the Greengate Ind. Estate has already created 12 new jobs and is expected to create 30 more over the next three years, while eight new apprentices are also taken on from the local area each year.

J A Harrison’s 38,000ft² factory design was conceived to create the world’s most innovative gaskets and seals for industry, and incorporates computerised industrial presses, lathes, ovens and cyber-safe security systems that will enable J A Harrison to work on the defence, aerospace, rail, nuclear, automotive and pharmaceutical industries’ most closely-guarded projects.

Alan Shepherd, 81, said: “I’m proud that we are here and I’m proud of the way we got here. We’ve put so much into the business over the years and Oldham has changed dramatically in the time we’ve been growing it. 

As a nine-year-old child I played in the field where this building now stands. Today we’re at the heart of a busy industrial estate surrounded by thriving businesses. I owe great thanks to my children Keith, Martin and Elaine for making it all possible. They worked tirelessly to make it happen and now it is a dream come true.”

The facility’s building was bought and renovated by the Shepherd family with £1.4M of J A Harrison’s money, a £340,000 grant arranged through The Growth Company and a further £1M loan from RBS bank. Oldham Council provided support and assistance to facilitate the company’s move to the town.

Jean Stretton, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “We have worked very closely with J A Harrison to facilitate their move to Oldham and I am delighted that they have decided to relocate here, especially as this is where it all started for them. This new state-of-the-art facility will create good quality jobs and their apprenticeship scheme will improve the prospects of our young people and ensure they have the best possible start to their working lives. More and more businesses are seeing Oldham as an attractive place to locate to. Our continued investment in the borough will ensure we continue to attract high calibre businesses like J A Harrison to Oldham. I wish J A Harrison every success for the future.”

Head of Growth Services at Business Growth Hub, part of The Growth Company, Janine Smith said: “The support we’ve been able to provide is a perfect example of how we can help businesses enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. Our advisor was able to understand the barriers to growth that faced the business and work with Oldham Council to identify the right solutions for J A Harrison − from finding the right premises, at the right time, through to sourcing apprentices using Oldham’s Get Oldham Working initiative. The move to this amazing new facility will have a huge impact on the local area, both in the short and long-term.”

The company, already a supplier of bespoke and standard-dimension gaskets to prominent energy and petrochemical businesses including Siemens and Total, is currently seeking accreditations to supply the world’s leading industries with innovative sealing products. Its benchmark installation also offers efficiencies that will cut lead times and down-time in industry, and allow J A Harrison to compete on price with gasket manufacturers in China and India.

The company’s managing director Keith Shepherd, 57, said: “Safety of products, security of systems and contamination are big issues for customers in the industries we wish to serve. This facility addresses them all. We must be compliant with those industries to satisfy the tough auditing required of their suppliers. Our sealing products have always been the highest quality available and we have a track record in creating innovative products, which many companies in these industries seek. But we needed to refine our processes and this facility has more than done that for us. It is a flagship facility for our industry that not only gives us the scope to produce gaskets and seals for some of the most tightly controlled businesses around the world, but also allows us to produce them in greater volume at a faster rate. We had opportunities to locate the business elsewhere in the North West but it’s long been a dream of the family to bring J A Harrison to Oldham to help the town. 

We’ve done that now and we are delighted it is operational.”

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