A WORLD leading manufacturing company in Storrington is looking to expand by building a new factory opposite its existing site on the Water Lane industrial park.
The opening of Tesla Engineering’s new £2.5m facility in 2013 would coincide with the electro magnet manufacturer’s 40th anniversary in the village, subject to planning consent being granted.
The firm, which employs around 280 people, specialises in making gradient coils for MRI scanners used in hospitals, as well as specialist components for other medical applications including photon therapy equipment for the treatment of cancers
The business also supplies the semi-conductor and nuclear fusion industries as well. Demand for Tesla products is strong and as business booms the company’s turnover has been steadily growing from £19m in the year to February 2011 to a projected £30 million this year.
However, operating at capacity its current 80,000 sq ft premises ‘cannot keep existing customers happy’.
Worse still, they are ‘turning away work’ according to the Tesla finance director Dave Cracknell who told the County Times the exporter’s bid for expansion ‘is essential, absolutely essential’.
Tesla is negotiating the purchase of a 2.75-acre site from a local farmer immediately opposite and to the north east of its Water Lane premises.
Mainly covering a former landfill site, but also some virgin soil, the new 23,000 sq ft factory would permit Tesla to better exploit new opportunities emerging in new markets.
This includes making $1m components for an American start up’s $20m photon therapy machines which could revolutionise some cancer treatments.
Previously, Tesla has had to rent additional space in Lancing to fulfil new contracts, for example when 1500 magnets for CERN’s large hadron collider in Switzerland from 2001 to 2006.
However, with demand for its products strong a more permanent solution is now required.
For Mr Cracknell, who has served with the company for nearly 20 years, it is a proud and exciting time.
“It’s all good news what we are doing here,” he said. “The medical applications are great – finding out what is wrong with people and curing them.”
Depending on what contracts the company accepts, it could also create 50 new jobs for the area.
The fact Tesla is an expanding exporter is also of wider benefit to the national economy as a whole.
“We are literally pulling in wealth from other countries,” said Mr Cracknell, who as finance director is aware that alternatives to local expansion include transferring work to group companies in Holland or the US where its two main customers are, or establishing a Chinese manufacturing base.
Either would be ‘devastating’ for the local economy both in terms of lost jobs and support business to local sub-contractors.
The planning application which Tesla hopes to submit to HDC in May will however prove controversial for some, with housing located nearby in Brook Close, Southwater Way and Rother Close, Storrington.
But the new facility’s impact on residents should be ‘pretty minimal’ argued Mr Cracknell, who said the company would undertake extensive landscaping and tree planting.
Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry) leader of HDC commented: “Tesla are a local success story. Their growth, based on innovation and exports, is an example of what the district and the county needs.
“I have been greatly impressed by their ideas to increase their business and the potential for new high quality jobs that this could bring.”
Lionel Barnard, deputy leader of West Sussex County Council who is responsible for economic issues, said: “It is always good to hear about business expansion in our county, and with the potential for highly skilled new jobs this is very welcome news for the local economy.”
Should permission be granted in good order, Tesla hopes the first works on a six month build will begin before winter, with the new facility ready for a grand opening in 2013 – 40 years since the business and Storrington’s largest employer was first established.