Kelso plastics firm looks to future

AFTER news that a major Borders employer was bucking the current harsh economic conditions with a major recruitment drive, it has been announced that another company is on track with its exciting plans for expansion.

Last week, TheSouthern reported how the Kelso plant operated by American-based high-tech manufacturer, Plexus, had taken on 57 new staff in the three months up until October.

And this week, plastics specialist, Forbes, which also has its factory in Kelso, has announced further major investment.

Forbes has already ploughed substantial sums into its extensive developments on its site at the town’s Pinnaclehill Industrial Estate in recent years.

Part of that was made possible with funds from the sale of land to supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s, for its new store in the town.

And company chairman, Lee Forbes, told TheSouthern this week that, following the purchase of an additional 1.7 acres of land earlier this year, ground works are almost complete for the latest expansion, with the foundations of another large building now in place.

And, in line with company policy, where possible, local companies are involved, with the main ground works and the customised factory building being contracted out to local firms.

Once complete, the buildings will house a new manufacturing plant to manufacture an extensive range of very large storage and processing tanks, together with gas scrubbing towers, in thermoplastic materials.

With diameters up to four metres and capacities up to 100m3, these will be produced with the latest custom-built automated equipment

This is another addition to Forbes’ already comprehensive range of tanks, vessels and scrubbers currently built in Kelso.

Representing an investment of over £1.7million, this new plant will enable the company to satisfy virtually every recognised type of construction for tanks and scrubbers in plastics.

Mr Forbes told us: “This very large investment demonstrates our confidence in the people of Kelso. A large part of the success of the company has been down to our excellent workforce.

“This new development will involve further employment. We have plans to increase the workforce and have already taken on personnel with a view to starting training ready for this exciting expansion”.

Mr Forbes explained how important the cash from Sainsbury’s had been to the expansion project.

“Without the co-operation of Sainsbury’s, we would not be in the fortunate position we are today. Over the past two years we have increased our exports, primarily due to the increased efficiency of being on one site in modern custom built buildings.”

The new plant is scheduled to start operations in February and will employ a further five workers.

Local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston (Con) told us: “The recent expansion of the Forbes site on Pinnaclehill estate is another good news story for Kelso and since the relocation of all their factories on to one site, to allow for the Sainsbury’s supermarket, there has been a real upturn in steady orders all year round.

“With work now started on the latest Forbes factory, this will be another boost for the town and the Forbes workforce.

“There are several new businesses also showing keen interest in the new Pinnaclehill estate expansion, so fingers crossed there will be more good news coming shortly.”

The news of the expansions from Plexus and Forbes, comes just weeks after a rescue deal was announced for Hawick-based Barrie Knitwear.

A total of 176 jobs were secured after luxury French fashion label, Chanel, announced a takeover of the Borders mill.

The future of Barrie Knitwear and its workforce had been in doubt after parent company, Dawson International, fell into administration in the summer, due to pension fund problems.