ONE of the region's leading manufacturers this week opens its second factory in less than three years, as it targets a doubling of sales and staff numbers by 2020.

The new Nifco UK plant at Eaglescliffe, near Stockton, has been built to cope with demand for its range of plastic products - from door handles to cup holders - that are found in almost every make of vehicle on UK roads.

The 7,000 sq ft factory, which includes a 17-jobs high tech research and development lab, could be followed by a third before too long, Nifco bosses told The Northern Echo, as the firm anticipates demand will continue to rise for the rest of the decade.

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The plant produces about 25 million parts a month for customers including Nissan, Ford, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover.

Completion of the second plant means Nifco has now run out of space at its Durham Lane site and is looking at potential locations to kick off the next stage of development.

However, the third factory could be built outside the North-East, revealed Mike Matthews, the firm's European operations officer and managing director.

Darlington-born Mr Matthews said his preference was to build in the Tees Valley, but he admitted that being closer to some of Nifco's key customers in the Midlands could also be a deciding factor.

"My guess is that this second factory will have reached capacity by the middle of 2016, so in my mind I am already working on factory three for the UK," said Mr Matthews, who expects sales will have risen to at least £100m by 2020, but could top the £120m mark.

He added: "Over the next six years the company should be doubling in sales and more than doubling the workforce to around 1,100.

"We have looked to diversify into other sectors, but the automotive industry just keeps sucking us back in, so we align ourselves to their objectives. It has been the cornerstone of our success." 

Since Mr Matthews took the helm in 2008, Nifco UK has enjoyed a remarkable transformation from a loss-making operation that was under threat of closure, to a £60m turnover business that will have 460 staff by the end of 2014.

Support from the Regional Growth Fund has enabled the firm to retain its workforce and create at least 295 new jobs and recruit apprentices.

More than £32m has been spent to build and equip the two factories, which includes 75 new moulding machines.

The investments will enable Nifco to add other processes alongside its injection moulding expertise and expand its portfolio to make smaller and lighter products for the next generation of cars.