THE region's oldest family-owned building contractor is entering its 153rd year of trading with rising confidence thanks to £2.5m of new contracts.

T Manners & Sons Limited, a Bishop Auckland, County Durham-based construction and joinery company, is now in its fifth generation of family ownership.

The firm's proud legacy is set to continue with Robert Manners, the company's managing director and great grandson of founder Thomas Manners, confirming that his son Simon recently became a director designate of the £8m turnover firm.

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T Manners has not been immune to the recession which has forced many smaller contractors out of business, Robert admitted.

Government cutbacks to public sector projects played a part in the companys annual turnover dipping from a high of more than £10m. But it has managed to maintain a skilled workforce of about 60 and support hundreds of jobs through its network of sub-contractors and suppliers.
The firm's ability to offer a wide range of services nationwide and keep up with changes in the industry has been a crucial to it weathering the recession.
T Manners construction division, which can handle contracts worth up to £3m, has been boosted by new orders, such as a major housing regeneration scheme in East Durham and an academy school project in Northumberland.

The firm's specialist joinery wing, which helped to build the stage area at The Sage Gateshead and the media desk for the London 2012 Olympics, continues to secure work from leading national hotel chains. And last year's dismal wet weather saw T Manners small works team called on to help repair flood damaged properties across the region.
"Having three areas of expertise means that when demand is low in one the others can help keep things buoyant," explained Robert Manners.

"We have made a very positive start to 2013. Our customers have remained loyal and responded positively to the hard work our staff have put in during these difficult times. Our intention is to deliver these projects to the highest standards and continue this success through the year ahead.

"No one in the construction industry would denythat times are tough and we are competing with major national firms for even relatively small contracts.

"Nowadays we are a national company with our base here in County Durham. We are a business with a great tradition and a very good reputation, but we are also forward-looking and flexible in responding to whatever our customers need."