A PRECISION engineering company has started work on an £8m plant that will lead to the creation of 86 skilled jobs.  

Darchem Engineering boss Graham Payne was joined by local dignitaries for a ground-breaking ceremony, which officially started the first phase of building the 75,000 sq ft factory on a brownfield site next to the firm’s main factory in Stillington, near Darlington.

The investment has been prompted by demand for Darchem's high-quality  products, particularly in the growing market for large scale nuclear fabrications.

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The company, which employs about 650 workers in the North-East, also produces specialist metal fabrications, fire protection and insulation products for the aerospace, nuclear, defence, oil and gas and automotive industries.

The investment, which has been supported by a £1m grant from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, has seen Darchem’s parent company, the Esterline Corporation, invest the remaining £7m in the plant.

Community leaders attending the landmark event included Stockton Borough Council’s Leader Bob Cook,  Richard Poundford, head of regeneration & economic development at Stockton Borough Council, Neil Kenley, Tees Valley Unlimited’s director of business investment and Andy McLeod, managing director of Robertson, the contractor of the building.

Mr Payne, said: “Breaking ground on this major new investment demonstrates Darchem Engineering’s strength as well as the ongoing confidence from our parent company Esterline. Over the last three years we seen record levels of turnover, fuelled by growing demand for our specialist fabrications, insulation and fire protection products.

“Within our sectors, aerospace, defence, automotive and energy, we have seen significant growth and have won many new contracts and have the chance to bid for even more substantial projects which is fuelling the need for this new production facility .

“This area is a great place to do business thanks to the positive attitudes of the local authority and Tees Valley Unlimited, as well as our highly skilled and motivated workforce.”

Coun Cook, said: “Darchem has a reputation and track record of delivering high-precision / high quality engineered solutions to blue chip customers around the globe, resulting in the company bringing 86 highly-skilled jobs to the Tees Valley which is wonderful news.

“We are very fortunate the firm has long-standing commitment to its apprenticeship programme, which is important to the area’s existing and future skills base.”

Mr Poundford, hailed Darchem as "an ambitious company with world-class expertise across a range of engineering sectors.”

As well as the 86 new jobs, the investment will safeguard 29 posts.  The new roles will be highly skilled in metal fabrication and welding.

The project’s design architects are Leigh Cooper Associates.