The head of a firm which secured a £82million contract has said Denbighshire is a ‘fantastic’ place to do business.
St Asaph-based Qioptiq beat competition from across the UK to win a major MOD contract to maintain handheld equipment – including night-vision goggles and weapon sights – for the UK's Armed Forces over the next six years.
The deal has led to a £2.5m investment by the Welsh Government for a purpose-built 24,000 sq. ft. manufacturing unit to be built for Qioptiq, adjacent to its site on St Asaph Business Park.
Peter White, Managing Director of Qioptiq, said: “It is a support contract for equipment, some of it we have sold, some of it other companies have sold.
“With a contract like this you get security. We can invest because we know we have a contract that is 11 years, the first six years are definite and the following five are optional, if we perform, which I am sure we will.
“We can invest in the people, we can invest in the infrastructure and skills and it allows us to take a long-term view.”
Qioptiq employs 580 staff across sites in St Asaph and Bodelwyddan and the MOD contract, which will save the taxpayer £47m by merging 20 individual contracts, will create eight new positions.
The firm, which grew out of Pilkington Glass 50 years ago, is a world-leading producer of opto-electronics, including cutting edge technology such as visual displays for pilots’ helmets.
It counts BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Airbus among its customers.
Qioptiq also has a space division and every satellite launched in the Western world contains glass made by the company in Denbighshire.
Mr White, who graduated from the University of Manchester in 1982 and moved to the region more than 30 years ago, said support from the Welsh Government was invaluable in securing the contract.
Talking about being based in Denbighshire, he said: “Sometimes you can take for granted the sense of community, there is a strong community here. When international customers come over, they always comment on the passion and dedication that the workforce shows and it’s important to remember that.
“The people help make the business and the business helps make the people. We rely on each other.
“Denbighshire is a fantastic area to work. The transport links are good but could be better. Continued investment in infrastructure is important to the businesses based in St. Asaph and the wider area. We do a lot of international travel and flights. Manchester and Liverpool airports are great international hubs.
“The work-life balance is important, it certainly is to me. We are an hour away from Snowdonia, an hour from the beaches of Anglesey. Chester, Manchester and Liverpool are not far away. The work-life balance is fantastic here.
“We have been successful here in Denbighshire, the business is growing. If you invest in your business and you invest in your people, and have a clear and sound business plan, then St Asaph is a great place to base your business. But like a business it is important that we continue to invest in the area and the transport links – success brings its own challenges”
The company is also leading the way with new technology for commercial and military pilots.
Mr White said: “Helmet mounted displays are the next generation of technology. We have invested significantly in technology and people and we are now working in plastic materials as well as glass, to project a display onto a pilot’s visor, so the pilot sees the outside world through the visor and also sees the primary flight information in front of his eyes.”
Rebecca Maxwell, Denbighshire County Council’s Corporate Director for Economy & Public Realm, said: “The MOD contract is great news for Qioptiq and great news for Denbighshire.
“Qioptiq is a world-leading firm and contributes enormously to the local economy.
“Denbighshire is a great place to do businesses and that is exemplified by firms like Qioptiq.
“As a Council we are working hard to attract more businesses and investment to the county. We are doing this by developing the local economy through our Economic and Community Ambition Programme with the aim of attracting more high paid jobs and increasing household incomes.
“We are supporting businesses by improving statutory regulatory services to reduce time and costs, equipping school leavers for the world of work, streamlining how we deal with inward investment enquiries to get quick answers to potential investors and enhancing business support.
“There are now more businesses starting up every year in Denbighshire, from 280 a year in 2012 to 350 in 2015, we have the best 1 year survival rates and the highest percentage increases in business financial turnover of anywhere in Wales.
“To add to that employment in Denbighshire has topped 40,000, with more than 1,500 more people in work now than when we started the programme in 2013.”
“This is clear evidence that making the economy a priority for the Council is having a real impact for businesses and we will continue to work with the businesses community to support them.”