Is there a future for key Bosch factory site and its workers after 135 staff laid off?
PUBLISHED: 08:26 27 January 2020
The final clear-out of a key manufacturing site in Suffolk is on track to be completed by mid-2020 after a multinational company decided to relocate to eastern Europe, with the loss of 135 staff.
Just eight staff remain as part of a clear-up operation at Bosch's former garden tools plant at Stowmarket after the factory workforce was made redundant.
The bulk of the workforce left the site before the end of 2019, and the company says it expects the closure to be completed by mid-2020.
MORE - More than 100 jobs to go at Suffolk factory
However, the future of its 100-strong research and development team, which remains in a leased building close to the town centre, is secure.
The German-based engineering firm - which was set up as a not-for-profit charitable trust by its founder, Robert Bosch, and has manufacturing sites around the world - decided to relocate its power tools and home and garden division to a cheaper-to-run power tools plant site in Hungary.
Bosch arrived in Stowmarket in 1995 when it took over the Atco Qualcast Ltd site. In 2018, in renewed its leasehold of the 16,000sq ft property for a further 10 years.
However, last year it made the shock announcement that it planned to relocate the operation because of difficult economic conditions and economic pressures from increased competition in the garden tools market.
Despite efforts to cut costs and improve efficiency at the UK plant, it decided that the situation had not improved sufficiently, and that it would therefore move it to a cheaper location in Miscolc, Hungary.
"Eventually, 135 jobs were affected who have all left. There are still some people on site winding down and closing everything up," a spokeswoman said.
However, she added that the company planned to keep its research team in Stowmarket. "They are going to stay there and they are a core part of the company," she said.
The crack research team works in different areas, such as plant care, tree care and robotics, and had developed "great products," such as in the growing cordless sector, she explained.
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"That team has always worked across our global sites so it's never been exclusively for the manufacturing site there."
The firm had a strong social ethos and its priority had been in supporting those affected, she said. "That's the Bosch way of doing things - we do appreciate our associates. These aren't easy decision to make," she said.
She added that she was aware that there had been some interest in the site, but nothing was at an advanced stage. These had approached the company, but it wasn't something it had actively sought.
"There are currently plans on future use of the cleared premises and buildings, but the site will handle any future use," she said.
"We have had some interest, but nothing has come to fruition."
Mid Suffolk District Council said it was continuing to support employees and supporting the town's economic growth, including through the 100 acre Gateway 14 site at junction 50 of the A14 near the town's Cedars Park. This is set to deliver a multi-million-pound boost for the region through the development of a new 1m sq ft business and logistics park, and supports the council's ambition for the area to form a "Tech Centre of Excellence, with a developing cluster of technology and manufacturing companies", it said.
It is also bringing together a range of private and public sector representatives from across the town later in February to discuss and refresh a vision for Stowmarket, building on the work already done as part of its Vision for Prosperity programme.
Councillor Gerard Brewster, the council's cabinet member for economic growth, said: "We continue to support Bosch and its employees, helping those who have lost their jobs to find the support they need and also putting them in touch with other local businesses who can use their valuable skills and expertise.
"Bosch's research and development arm remains in Stowmarket and we are working hard to ensure our district is an attractive place for business and innovation."
The town was "ideally placed" to attract major investors to the district, he added.