The new UK headquarters of global security equipment and systems company Gunnebo were officially opened at the Ashdown Business Park at Maresfield on Friday.
The Swedish company, which has a £550 million turnover and employs 5,200 people worldwide, has moved to the premises from the Bellbrook Estate, Uckfield, where it was based for 30 years.
Gunnebo CEO and president Henrik Lange was joined by former Wealden MP Charles Hendry to cut a ribbon and declare the building open.
Mr Hendry thanked Gunnebo, on behalf of the local community, for its commitment shown to Uckfield, Wealden and East Sussex over so many years.
The search for new premises had taken a long time but the new offices were “fabulous”.
He added: “This is a wonderful piece of architecture, a real statement for this business park which will make others more keen to come and develop it further, and a real statement for Uckfield and the success of this town.”
Mr Hendry said Gunnebo was a very important part of the business community and just what was needed in Uckfield.
He said one of the challenges in East Sussex was that people tended to go outside the area for better paid and qualified jobs and it meant a lot that Gunnebo, with its technology focus and commitment to research and development, had chosen to base its operation here.
“It is wonderful you are here. You are great corporate citizens and everybody in Uckfield will be wishing you success in this business.”
Centre of excellence
Gunnebo managing director Robert Hermans said their aim was for the new offices to be a centre of excellence for sales training and technical training, a place where customers could see their products, and what could be done for them, and a centre for development of new products and concepts.
He hoped Gunnebo would be able to expand there for many years ahead.
History of the Ashdown Business Park
Mike Timms, of Summerthorne Estates, told Uckfield News it was back in 1997 that the first steps were taken towards developing the Ashdown Business Park.
His company bought one piece of land and it took 15 years of negotiation with East Sussex County and Wealden District Councils to bring other parcels together. There were recessions and several changes of Government on the way.
Of 35 acres only 14 were developable and now seven out of the ten sites on the business park are in the hands of lawyers. Mike was delighted with the quality of companies moving in, major retailer John Lewis being the first to open a distribution centre, and now Gunnebo opening its UK headquarters.
Mr Timms said he made a conscious decision to put all the infrastructure – drains, services, roads, street lights – on to the site at the start of the project to help businesses see that it was an industrial park and envisage their buildings on it.
It was a heavy investment but worth it because when people came along and could see that their business would fit in, things could happen very quickly for them.
He said it was “absolutely fantastic” to work on the project with Chris Lawson of Lawson Commercial and Mike Barber of MJB Architecture. He hoped Mike would put in for an award for his designs because of the quality of the buildings.
Good to see Uckfield prosper
Mr Timms, one of the founders of TR Fastenings – with Mike Roberts – and still a shareholder though he retired from the company 18 years ago, said he had lived in Uckfield since 1975 and he liked to see the town prosper.
His first investment in land and development was on the Bellbrook Estate when new premises were built in 1980 for TR Fastenings. The company was launched at Hook Hall before moving to Framfield Road and then the Bellbrook.
Mr Timms said he was chuffed with the way TR had flourished. Back in 1973 they sold between 5,000 and 10,000 fastenings a week. Today they deliver 150 million globally each day.
The company employs 1,300 people across the world in 31 locations, 175 of them in Uckfield.
Would Mr Timms develop another business park? He said he would consider it but after this there was nothing allocated for commercial development, even if there is demand.
He said: “East Sussex is not a large county, and we have the Ashdown Forest to protect, but 1,000 homes are to be built in Uckfield and people will want to work locally.
“These houses will bring 3,000 to 4,000 people, and 2,000 motor cars, to the town in the next five years. Are we thinking ahead? I do think though we need more places to employ people, people do need jobs.”
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