Whirlpool 'remains totally committed to Yate' after selling factory site to council
APPLIANCE maker Whirlpool has reassured Yate residents that it has no intention of leaving Yate, despite selling its factory in Station Road.
The plant, where around 270 people are employed, has been sold to South Gloucestershire Council for £9.88 million.
But the American-owned company has affirmed its commitment to the town, describing the sale as a "common business practice" where the new owner will lease the plant back to Whirlpool.
Speaking to the Voice before the council revealed that it had bought the land, a Whirlpool spokesperson said: “Whirlpool Corporation remains totally committed to Yate.
"The company recently sold our Yate plant and entered into a lease obligation with the building’s new owners, as part of a global real estate review.
"This is a common business practice that allows companies to optimise their real estate portfolios.
"There will be no changes to the company’s business in Yate where our operation will remain the same."
The company's review has seen plants in other countries moved over to similar sale and leaseback arrangements in recent months.
South Gloucesterhire Council has now confirmed it has bought the land, along with a separate deal for a site in North Road occupied by Yate Disposables, trading as Yate Supplies.
Cabinet member for corporate resources Ben Burton said: “We are very pleased to have been able to make these purchases to ensure local business can continue to thrive in Yate.
“The council’s long-term aspiration is to be an enabler of regeneration.
“Owning land at key locations in the area will ensure that we have a degree of control over its future use, should the current occupiers wish to relocate in the future.”
The Whirlpool factory traces its history back to the Parnall aircraft factory where gun turrets were produced during the Second World War.
After the conflict ended production was switched to washing machines and then tumble dryers, and it has made machines for the Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit under owners including Merloni, who took over in 2001, and Whirlpool, from 2014.
The council's deal to buy Yate Supplies' base in North Road (above) for £4.62m had “saved many jobs”, according to managing director Scott Shackleford, who said the council had secured the future of the family-owned business, which was founded 35 years ago by his mother and stepfather, who are still on the board.
He said the council’s support was a “godsend” because the company had struggled to access government funding during the pandemic, following a period of growth.
Mr Shackleford said the firm, which supplies tableware and glassware to big companies such as Itsu, Soho Coffee and Leon Restaurants, had seen many of them temporarily shutting their outlets because of coronavirus.
He said Yate Supplies currently employed 60 staff, down from just over 100 a year ago, with many on furlough, but that he now expected employee numbers to return to previous levels.
Mr Shackleford said: “We have always tried to support the community and local tradespeople, because we are a family business and we are grateful for that reciprocation from the council.
“We have seen turnover drop considerably through the pandemic.
“It is a good long-term investment for the council and a smart move.
“I didn’t think councils did this sort of thing but it’s a good use of taxpayers’ money because they will get regular income from an asset that will maintain its value.
“Councils are probably seen as antiquated but what they’ve done is not just heartwarming but from an investors’ perspective is pretty shrewd, shows fleet of foot and even entrepreneurial to make sure there is revenue coming in from spending taxpayers’ money.
“They have saved a lot of jobs. They have kept a business running that has been going for 35 years and will help it grow and thrive.
“It would not have been curtains for us without the council’s investment but we were looking at various options like outside investors and there could have been a buyout, which could have affected cash flow and annoyed our customers.
“If you have a buyout or other investors then that sphere of influence begins to change and they might have wanted to amalgamate or change the business.
“The council’s investment means keeping control of the business within the family, making sure we can continue to run it in the way we have and keeping jobs local.”
The purchases were made from the authority’s property and land investment fund, which was approved as part of the annual budget last month, following agreement by a cross-party panel which considers potential deals.
Article includes a report by Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service