THE new £600,000 base of one of Wear Valley's longest-established employers was officially unveiled by Government chief whip Hilary Armstrong yesterday.

Innovative engineering firm MRB Schumag moved to a new purpose-built site on South Church Enterprise Park, near Bishop Auckland, from a former school building in Fir Tree earlier this year.

The company, started in the 1940s as Marshall Richards Machines Co Ltd, designs and supplies specialist machinery for the copper tube industry.

Managing director Paul Storey hopes the move signals the start of a new and prosperous era for the company, which already has an annual turnover of £10m.

Klaus Erkes, chairman of the firm's German parent company, said: "MRB here is doing excellent business, the management team and all staff work very hard and show real commitment every day and to this move."

Ms Armstrong said: "MRB represents the huge challenges of enterprise today.

"They faced the fact that they are not able to compete with lower wage manufacturing but didn't give in. They got on with engineering and are now doing a tremendous job and this building represents their continued success."

The move aims to benefit the firm's 27 employees as they are closer to town centre facilities, have a modern working environment and access to a fitness suite which has been installed on site.