Brexit and crime threaten future of Rotherham wire firm

A wire manufacturer has shelved £1.5m plans to create 15 jobs due to uncertainty over Brexit.

Central Wire Industries in Rotherham is also stockpiling vital supplies from France and Germany ahead of the UK’s planned departure from the European Union on March 29.

Russell Kettell, Wire Drawer/Shift Leader, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

Russell Kettell, Wire Drawer/Shift Leader, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

Bosses say they have seen a 10 per cent drop in overseas orders in the last two months as customers source suppliers closer to home due to fear of disruption and delays at UK borders. Export at Central Wire is 70 per cent of business.

The firm is also spending £20,000 on security after thefts, intruders and a break-in.

Boss Paul From said it had record turnover and headcount but closure and relocation to Europe was being considered. The company has already shelved plans for a £1.5m move into the aerospace sector which was set to create 15 jobs.

He said: “If the border shuts and we run out of material we are out of business. Customers are already making decisions about whether buying from us is going to expose themselves to risk.

Paul From, President and CEO, left, and James Roper, Managing Director, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

Paul From, President and CEO, left, and James Roper, Managing Director, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

“I’m being asked by my board, ‘what’s the strategic plan?’. It’s a major disruption to relocate but it’s a consideration if we are faced with impossible trading conditions.”

A possible clampdown on migrant workers was also a concern due to a labour shortage, he added.

CWI is one of the last major wire manufacturers in the UK. This year it won a Queen’s Award for export - the highest business accolade in the land - after export sales grew 92 per cent in three years.

Some 65 staff work at its factory on Primrose Park, Greasbrough Road, using drawing (pulling) and rolling operations to make products in more than 50 alloys in round and other cross sections, or ‘profiles’.

A Rolling Head pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

A Rolling Head pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

Set up in 1971, it is now part of the Central Wire Industries group headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, which has 10 factories in the US and two in Canada.

Mr From said the site had been hit by a string of thefts, intruders and a break-in last month.

But when they called the police 101 non-emergency number they have had to wait up to 40 minutes to get through.

Officers attended shortly after the burglary, but left before a keyholder arrived. When they returned two days later there was little evidence left, Mr From added.

Annealing Furnace, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

Annealing Furnace, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

“The UK plant has had some difficulty as a result of break-ins and attempted break-ins. Because it is primarily stainless steel and nickel alloys, it’s a hot target. We understand this and have security measures, all of them we are upgrading. The challenge so far has been the lack of response from the local police.

“My concern is people’s attitude is not to expect a response, it’s as if crime is accepted as the norm. In my experience when police are driving around late at night the incident rate goes down.”

A police spokeswoman said the offenders had left by the time police arrived after the break-in.

“The keyholder was contacted to attend and speak with officers, however no time of arrival was provided, and by 11.30pm the officers had to respond to other high priority incidents.

“When the owner later confirmed no property had been stolen, the incident was recorded as criminal damage. Officers attended and provided advice on securing the commercial properties in the area. Officers have since met with the owner and other nearby businesses.”

FIRM IS A RARE UK WIRE MANUFACTURING SUCCESS STORY

James Roper, Central Wire Industries UK Ltd, pictured with some profiled wire. Picture: Marie Caley

James Roper, Central Wire Industries UK Ltd, pictured with some profiled wire. Picture: Marie Caley

Following a £1m investment after Central Wire bought the operation three years ago, turnover is up 25 per cent in two years and 15 jobs have been created this year. Some staff came from the famous Fox Wire in Stocksbridge which closed after 170 years in 2014.

CWI takes huge coils of wire rod and makes products in round and other cross sections, or profiles. Wires are cold drawn - pulled through a shaped die - up to seven times, alternating with heat treatment (annealing), to obtain the correct mechanical, surface finish and diameter.

Central Wire Industries LTD, Rotherham. Picture: Marie Caley

Central Wire Industries LTD, Rotherham. Picture: Marie Caley

Wire Worker Piotr Stypka, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

Wire Worker Piotr Stypka, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley