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On course for global success
A COMPANY behind the Tees Barrage white water centre is continuing the proud legacy of North-East firms that shared their engineering skills with the world.
Patrick Parsons Consulting Engineers has seen its international profile rocket this year thanks to its work at the Olympic venue in Hertfordshire, where Team GB struck canoeing gold this summer. Since London 2012, the firm landed a £5m deal to make the site accessible to the public in a bid to inspire the next generation of British medal hopes.
The 48-year-old multi-disciplinary practice is also helping the rest of the world to compete.
It recently completed work on three Olympic-standard white water courses in Russia and it is hoping to land similar design work for a project in Hong Kong.
A bold bid for the white water course for the Rio Olympics in 2016 has been lodged and managing director Peter Stienlet is jetting off to the Middle East this week to continue talks with potential clients in Qatar and the UAE keen to draw on the firms growing reputation.
"If I go out anywhere in the world and say to a developer "I am an engineer" - they reply - "So what? we have our own people." But the white water projects have given us something unique that gets past the perception that we are just a small firm from the North-East of England.
"It has opened doors and led to them inviting us to pitch for other work such as hotels," said Mr Stienlet, who praised UKTI for its support in opening up overseas markets.
One of the catalysts for its success was the contract last year on a 4.6m upgrade of the Tees Barrage course in Stockton.
"Everything is founded on the work we did there when we first used the RapidBloc technology (which helps to create the requisite fast flowing water). Then it got installed at the London Olympics and now it's spreading across the world."
How does he feel about working on projects that will help Team GBs rivals to hone their skills?
"It's what we should be doing. UK engineering has always been top notch. It's gone around the world building everything - railways, roads and bridges. In our little way we are continuing that legacy. It's exciting for the staff, the business and for the area.
"I'm sick of all the gloomy stories, you have got to be positive in this world or you get nowt."
Closer to home the company's broad range of engineering skills has seen it win two contracts to build student accommodation in Newcastle as well as work on heritage sites such as Durham Cathedral, Prebends Bridge in Durham, the Swing Bridge in Newcastle and Alnwick Castle.
Annual turnover has risen 56 per cent to £2.5m and Mr Stienlet hopes it can hit between £3.5-£4m next year and add to its workforce of 41. It has even seen an upturn in business with housebuilders, which are outstripping pre-recession levels.
He added: "Its not all about our exports, we are experiencing growth in the UK. It's still slow up here in the North-East and it always will be while the infrastructure such as the road links are so poor. They need looking at. We will always have our head office in Newcastle because that is where our heart is, but to grow as a company we opened new offices in Huddersfield and Chester.
"The 2012 Olympics were good for us but you have to work hard at it.
It's amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it."