IN 2007, Remploy’s factory on Railway Road, Wrexham was saved from closure after 15,000 people signed a petition calling on the government to keep it open.
The factory was named in May that year as one of 43 scheduled to be closed, but six months later, it was revealed it had been reprieved after a huge campaign involving the public and politicians.
Remploy provides opportunities for disabled and able-bodied people to work alongside one another, and was hailed as a massive part of the community.
Now, three years on from the closure announcement which would have sounded the death knell for the plant, a number of changes have been introduced on the site to ensure it remains profitable, something manager Dave Chippendale says is absolutely key to its continued success.
Before it was threatened with closure, the factory had produced just office furniture.
Now it has branched out.
Mr Chippendale has worked at Remploy for 20 years at various locations across the UK. He took over at the Wrexham factory two years ago.
He said: “What they did in Wrexham was take the site out of the business it was in and put it into another business stream called Workscope.
“At the time all the site did was produce office furniture, but now we produce accommodation furniture, furniture for the MoD, colleges and bedroom furniture.
“So there has been a big effort to try and broaden the range.”
A total of 52 people now work on the site - with 51 of those having some form of disability.
Twenty-seven members of staff were made redundant as part of measures brought in to make the factory more profitable in 2007, which also included reducing the number of shifts from two to one.
“We’ve invested in the site, spent £80k on infrastructure and £30,000 on extra kit,” said Mr Chippendale.
“The outlook is quite healthy. We have lost quite a few people but that enables us to move more efficiently. Funding can be an issue and it is up to us generate as much profit as we can.”
Nineteen years is the average length of service for an employee at the Railway Road site, and the longest serving member of staff has been there for an impressive 38 years. At least six employees have over 25 years service.
Last year the company sold £200,000 worth of products, and in addition to providing jobs Remploy also offers trial placements to people referred to them by the company’s recruitment office on Regent Street in Wrexham town centre.
He added: “In fact, anyone reading this who thinks we might be able to help them in some way by offering a trial, should give us a call.”
See full story in the Leader