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Indepth Interview with Laurence Martin

Brett Martin Head Office, Co Antrim

Company CV

Name: Brett Martin
Location: Headquartered in Mallusk County Antrim
Sector: Manufacturer of plastic products for construction, roofing, print and display.
Trading since: 1958
Workforce: 720
Turnover:  £100 million

What has been the highlight for your company to date?
There have been so many achievements in this business over the years and it is not always the most commercially significant wins that spring to mind. Brett Martin marked 50 years in business during 2008, this is a great accomplishment for the company, particularly as we remain a privately owned family business. My father founded the business in 1958 producing glass reinforced plastic sheet  and since that time it has grown to become a locally-based global company supplying specialist plastic products from drainage to rooflight systems and substrates for sign and display to distributors around the world. The company now has several manufacturing sites throughout the UK and employs over 700 people. Every development and step forward the company has made has contributed to this achievement and makes us the successful global business we are today.

What are the long-term hopes for the company?
We are very confident about the future. There is significant underlying demand for the products we produce and by continuing to innovate and develop the product range in line with market demand, I am certain that we can remain a global leader in our various markets. What I mean is that whilst we are best known locally for our drainage solutions, our facility in Mallusk is the largest polycarbonate extrusion site in Europe. Indeed Brett Martin polycarbonate rooflights feature in major stadia around the world including Wembley Stadium and the Kensington Oval cricket ground in Barbados. Furthermore, our precision engineered architectural rooflights are specified in all kinds of building projects from schools to hospital and high end properties.  The Brett Martin product range is so versatile that it features in everything from conservatory roofs, to hurricane shutters, riot shields and even Harry Potter films sets. This gives the business a wide scope of opportunity in a multitude of market sectors. Add to this the fact that we have a highly skilled and loyal workforce and the continual investment we have made at our Mallusk headquarters in recent years to enhance capacity and productivity, and you can see that we are continuing to drive the company forward.

How are you investing to improve business?
Even in the most difficult market conditions, Brett Martin has continued to invest in its operations.  This is an absolute fundamental to ensure the long term competitiveness and ultimate survival of our business.  If we fail to invest we stand still, and if that happens a competitor will seize this competitive advantage.  That is not what Brett Martin is about.  As an ambitious forward thinking organisation there is continual investment in product development, new tooling, machinery upgrades, new production lines and new plant.  This year alone, in the midst of the global recession, Brett Martin has invested over £2 million. This has included the building of a new Technology Centre to house product design, QA and product testing.  New production plant on order will come on stream in 2010. This year we have also invested significantly in new product development.  Our company has brought to market new insulating 10 wall structured polycarbonate sheet options  which provides  some of the lowest U values in the market and we are also about to launch a new architectural glazing panel at Batimat, a major European Building Exhibition held in Paris later this month.   Brett Martin is also breaking ground in trialling and developing recycled product options in foam PVC and PET in response to market demand for environmental alternatives.

Recession is a challenge for businesses but it can also help companies emerge stronger when the economy returns to growth. What positives have you identified?
It has reaffirmed to us how important it is to be a lean business that plans ahead and acts decisively. This has meant that we have been able to weather the recession and are well placed for the years ahead. The fact that we have been able to remain at the forefront of our industry during such challenging times gives me significant confidence in our business strategy.

Have you any new projects  in the pipeline? Are you tendering for any business for the London Olympics?
We are very pleased to be involved in a range of projects relating to London 2012. We are designing, producing and supplying roofing for a variety of venues involved in the games. We have already supplied translucent GRP (glass reinforced plastic) roofing and cladding for the completed football and rugby stadium at the £83 million Leigh Sports Village in the north of England, which has been included in the London 2012 Pre-Games Training Camp Guide. We are also supplying, amongst other London 2012-related projects, rooflights for the main basketball arena to be used during the games, vaulted rooflights for the Manor Park Training facility, which is an aquatics centre and polycarbonate covering for walkways surrounding the games’ main arena.

Manufacturing has been one of most severely hit sectors, have you seen any upturn in business or signs of 'green shoots'?
Brett Martin is a large and diverse business, which means that we operate in numerous markets and in several different sectors. Some markets and some industry sectors are currently performing better than others, however, on the whole, due to the spread of the business, Brett Martin has been able to weather the downturn which hit in 2009.

What is the best bit of advice you have ever been given?
Have the confidence to act quickly and decisively in the face of changing market conditions.

What are the benefits of being part of a global company?
The benefit of operating in numerous markets and sectors is that we tend to be able to weather recessions well, as not all areas tend to be impacted at the same time. The global nature of this recession has meant that it has been very challenging, but as a business, we responded early and appropriately and taken a number of calculated risks which have  positioned us very well to benefit as markets improve.