Intelligent signage manufacturer Westcotec is embarking on a £300,000 redevelopment of its premises in Dereham, Norfolk.

The company, which specialises in smart traffic safety systems, will double its current footprint with the expansion of its headquarters. “We will have a whole new production facility, which is double the size of our current facility, and a brand-new office,” said managing director Chris Spinks.

Westcotec has appointed Swaffham-based Acorn Works to carry out the redevelopment, which is likely to be completed in October or November. It comes as the company, founded in 2001, is starting to target overseas growth and additional recruitment. “It will ensure we are fit for purpose to keep up with what we're hoping will be expansion and growth in foreign markets,” said Chris. “We will have much more room to take on more production, sales and admin staff.”

There will also be a devoted space for research and development, along with better equipment for technical staff to develop new products. “It will improve, beyond recognition, the facilities available for the staff – both in terms of their working environment and welfare,” he added.

Westcotec became employee-owned three years ago, with the limited company now solely owned by Westcotec Employee Ownership Trust. Under the arrangement, Westcotec Limited is buying itself out on behalf of the trust from company founder Phil Hayton – over the course of ten years.

“Phil was really generous with the purchase price because he didn't want us to be saddled with debt," said Chris. “He had been looking at employee-ownership for a while as a way of securing the future and rewarding the staff that had basically got him to where he was.”

Chris is one of four director trustees, and there are also two employee trustees who sit on the board of the trust. “We are held to account by the trust, and our job is to run the company in the best interest of the employees,” he added.

Being employee-owned also allows the company to pay employees a tax-free bonus of up to £3,500 a year – and it has been profitable enough to pay the maximum bonus for the past three years, as well as invest in its premises. “That is what being employee-owned is about,” Chris concluded. “Spending money to make it a nicer place for people to work.”

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