Mention the Wicker nowadays and the image that will spring to most people’s minds is one of fast-food restaurants and curry houses, not the white heat of hi-tech engineering.
Yet once the lanes leading off the Wicker were packed with engineering shops – and some, like Baker Blower Precision Engineered Solutions, still remain.
Baker Blower is both a part of Sheffield’s engineering heritage and its future.
The privately-owned company was founded 140 years ago in the premises it still occupies today.
Its offices are in the house where the founder, Walter James Travis, lived, but Baker Blower is no fossil.
It has moved with the times – if it hadn’t it wouldn’t enjoy the prestige of being a Rolls-Royce supplier.
The Stanley Street company also works for the oil and gas sector, making sub-sea components for the extraction industry, and for steel processing plant manufacturers, including Siemens Metal Technologies.
And, it is looking to the future, planning further investment after recently broadening its capabilities by acquiring an engineering business in Bradford.
“We are looking at taking the company forward,” says recently appointed managing director Stephen Walker, speaking in his office, which was once Mr Travis’s front bedroom.
“We are well placed for people needing CNC machining and we are trying to increase our business opportunities.
“Times are very challenging at the moment, but there are lots of opportunities are out there. We are trying to open up avenues in the engineering sector and become more involved in volume production.
“When people think of the Baker Blower brand, they think of a jobbing shop, but we have the facilities to be a production shop, making bigger quantities for general industry as well as lower volumes.”
Baker Blower employs 23 people at its Sheffield plant and another eight at the Bradford company, which it bought in November.
Capabilities differ in terms of machinery and skills, so the two firms complement each other, with the Bradford plant angled more towards general engineering, although there are plans to upgrade that plant’s quality accreditations so that its machines can also be used on more demanding contracts. “Baker Blower needs to invest. Companies that are going to survive as successful companies need to do that and we are planning for a good investment programme over the next three to five years, given the fact that the workload is there,” adds Mr Walker.
“The company has been doing the right things for 20 years and is still doing the right things. I’m here to build on that.
“We are at a turning point and we need to move things along.”