TWENTY-four workers at the Border Precision engineering firm are facing redundancy and more than 120 other jobs are at risk after the company called in administrators.
The firm, which has an 80,000sqft factory at the town’s Pinnaclehill Industrial Estate and was founded in 1976 with just 12 workers, ran into what directors have called “unforeseen difficulties” as a result of bringing in new high-tech equipment.
And it was announced last week that Robert Craven and Stuart Preston, corporate recovery specialists at accountants Grant Thornton, have now been appointed to handle the running of the well-known Kelso firm.
The two men have not issued any statement on the situation as of yet, other than to say it is too soon to determine if they are in a position to be able to rescue Border Precision or find a buyer.
Reports of recent company accounts state that losses at the tool-making and electroplating company, which employs 150 workers, more than trebled to £645,000 in the year to the end of October 31, 2011, despite a healthy income of £7.1 million.
It was back in November 2011, that Border Precision installed the first automated laser welding system of its type in the UK.
In a move designed to help extend its position as a leader in production capability among precision engineering contract manufacturers, the company acquired a TRUMPF TruLaser Robot 5020 3D automated laser welding system for the processing of complex seam geometries.
“We bought it because we always strive to be at the forefront of new technologies,” the company’s managing director, Wayne Ballantyne, said at the time.
“We identified laser welding as a process of the future, a method that represents a fast, cost-effective joining solution for our customers.”
The company was also in the headlines three months ago, when, in October, firefighters were called to the factory after vapour from aluminium filings caused a chemical alert.
In response to the news that 24 staff were facing immediate redundancy, a PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) event was held in the town on Tuesday to provide advice and support to affected staff.
Councillor Stuart Bell, (Tweeddale East, SNP) executive member for economic development at Scottish Borders Council, told TheSouthern: “This is sad news for the staff at Border Precision.
“The workforce has a range of specialist skills which I hope will mean they can find alternative employment quickly.”
Local MP, Michael Moore said: “I am very sorry to hear this news that Border Precision has brought in administrators.
“The firm has been trading in Kelso for 37 years and it would be a great loss to the community if it were to fold.
“This is why I am urging administrators to work as quickly as possible to find a solution to protect jobs and provide certainty to employees at the firm.”
Local councillors also expressed dismay at the news that a firm seen as a real local success story was in such serious difficulties.
Tom Weatherston (Con) said it was news of the worst kind: “This is bad news for the town.
“Border Precision has been a first-class employer for many years and had one of the largest workforces in the area.
“I hope very much a way forward can be found to keep the business going to safeguard the remaining jobs, and I hope the workers who have been laid off can find other employment soon.”
His Conservative colleague, Simon Mountford, commented: “The news is very sad. Border Precision has had an excellent reputation and employs a skilled and motivated workforce.
“However, the company appears to have suffered from a poor cashflow despite having a respectable order book.
“Scottish Borders Council is working closely with Jobcentre Plus and the Citizens Advice Bureau to provide advice and support to those unfortunate staff who are losing their jobs.”
And Alec Nicol (LD) added: “Border Precision has been a bulwark of employment for skilled people in the town.
“People will be looking very closely at the order book and hopefully some entrepreneur will be interested.”