Paul Watts, Julie Price and David Price

College Joins Forces With Clothing Manufacturer To Give Jobs Boost To East Durham

Tue, 2002-08-27 01:00

New Jobs Set For Area: (Picture L-R) Paul Watts, Julie Price and David Price.

CLOTHING manufacturing is coming back to East Durham, bringing with it over 100 jobs.

Newly created company The AMA Group Ltd is opening a state-of-the-art facility on Whitehouse Business Park in Peterlee which signals the revival of the industry - an industry which was once regarded as the bedrock of the area.

The company is being launched by former Claremont Garments directors Julie and David Price and Paul Watts along with two other directors. Production is expected to begin in early April.

A recruitment drive, which will be phased throughout 2014 and 2015, is underway now with the company keen to employ a mix of young people, who will be trained in-house and with the support of East Durham College, and experienced machinists who have worked in the clothing manufacturing sector.

Julie Price, who ran her own lingerie business Essensual Lingerie after the closure of Claremont Garments UK Manufacturing, has been working on plans for the facility with her fellow directors for a number of months after seeing a change in retailers' and shoppers' attitudes towards overseas textile manufacturing operations, the expected increase in costs to buy products from abroad and the lack of flexibility from countries in the Far East.

She said: "The clothing manufacturing sector was at the heart of North East industry for many years and was particularly prominent in the East Durham area. But when retailers started looking overseas for the manufacture of their products in a bid to reduce costs, sadly the sector declined and eventually became virtually none existent.

"However, in recent times we have become much more conscious of where our clothing comes from, both socially and environmentally, and that, coupled with the inflexibility of sourcing products from overseas, prompted retailers to look at their suppliers.

"It was these factors which were the driving force behind us thinking seriously about bringing manufacturing back to the area.

"We've developed a very ambitious and exciting business plan which over the coming months will become a reality and I genuinely believe that we can lead the revival of the industry, not just in East Durham but the North East as a whole."

The AMA Group Ltd will occupy Whitehouse Three on Whitehouse Business Park, a 45,000 sq. ft. unit which was specifically chosen to reflect the modern, hi-tech approach to clothing manufacturing. The space will be gradually occupied as production is scaled up, beginning initially on the ground floor.

The company will have three divisions of business: contract manufacturing of garments for high street retailers, supermarkets and designer brands; commercial training aimed at companies within and suppliers to the retail sector; and a consultancy service for retailers focussing on the design and development of garments and how to purchase the best quality goods at the most competitive prices.

Business Durham, part of Durham County Council, has supported the directors during the development of  their ambitious plans and assisted with the search for suitable premises.

Joanne Urquhart-Arnold, Business Development Area Manager for the east of the county, said: "This is a massive boost for the East Durham area, not just because it will see the creation of over 100 jobs and support young people into secure employment but it will also see the revival of an industry which was once one of the area's most important employers."

Cllr Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration at Durham County Council, added: “Textiles coming back to Peterlee and bringing so many jobs is fantastic news and once again shows that County Durham is the place for business. We wish the company every success.”

The AMA Group Ltd will initially manufacture ladieswear and aims to supply to key high street retailers and well known brands.

Wherever possible products and materials will be sourced from the UK.

The recruitment drive will see around 50 people employed during 2014 with the remaining jobs - which will take the total workforce to well in excess of 100 - recruited next year.

Paul Watts will oversee recruitment on behalf of The AMA Group Ltd. He said: "The jobs we're creating are skilled and we are keen to employ a mix of young people in the 16-24 age bracket who want to learn and share our long term vision for the company and experienced workers who were employed in the sector in years gone by and would be interested in coming back."