AS TEESSIDE prepares to reimagine its economy, after seeing thousands of jobs go at the end of 2015, The Gazette speaks to Mike Matthews MBE, Nifco UK boss, about how his company has come through adversity.
‘Wind the clock back ten years or so, and we were in trouble. The early noughties were tough times, and Nifco really was at risk of closure.
‘Business was slow, our base was tired and no longer fit for purpose and we were operating very much in a ‘here and now’ fashion – producing products for today, but not thinking about tomorrow,’ says Matthews, who, with his team, has transformed the company from one on the brink of closure, to one of the shining stars of the North East business scene.
‘They were tough times, and we needed a strategy to get us out of trouble. It was sink or swim and we decided that whatever it took, we were going to swim. We were going to do whatever we had to do to save the jobs of as many people as possible and to secure the future of Nifco in Teesside.’
In the same way that Nifco planned its way out of trouble, Matthews believes that Teesside can do the same.
‘It’s going to take a thousand small steps to get there for Teesside, and there won’t be an overnight fix. When we are talking about job losses of this volume, we have to be realistic about how long it will take us to offset this.
‘However, I honestly believe that with a strategy, we can get through it. And I know that leaders in the area are committed to joint working – alongside business – to get Teesside back on its feet,’ says Matthews, who has been MD of Nifco since 2008, says.
Matthews’ words are not falling on deaf ears. Lord Heseltine, who has been drafted in to form a clear blueprint for regenerating the Teesside economy, has already spoken to the Nifco leader to get his views on what is needed to spur on the area.
‘I hope that Heseltine will help us lay out a path for growth, just as I was able to for Nifco a decade ago. Nobody would recognise today’s Nifco from the one operating out of our old Yarm Road site, making redundancies and struggling to get by. In a decade, we have turned the business around. And like Nifco did a decade ago, Teesside can. It will rely on businesses like ours, that are innovating and investing in what we call the four Is – investing in people, investing in property, investing in technology and investing in equipment – in order to grow, to guide the area on the pathway to a brighter future.’
For more information about Nifco UK, visit www.nifcoeu.com or call 01642 672 299.