Pet food entrepreneur Roger Skinner hopes to revive business fortunes at former Tenza packaging plant site at Saxmundham
PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 January 2015
A pet food tycoon hopes to transform the fortunes of a former packaging plant site in east Suffolk following the collapse of the business last year.
More than 70 people were left jobless six weeks before Christmas after Saxmundham firm Tenza Technologies, a major employer for the town, fell into administration.
Roger Skinner, of dog food makers Roger Skinner Ltd at Stradbroke, bought the freehold on the 12-acre former Tenza site, at Carlton Park Industrial Estate, but not the business, in the second half of November last year. He now hopes to regenerate the site, half of which is developed and half of which is bare land, with a business ‘village’.
“What I have tried to do is to try and make sure we get people back to work,” said Mr Skinner, who bought his current home, Hurts Hall in Saxmundham, a couple of years ago and is in the process of renovating it.
“Having purchased two industrial units from Tenza Technologies in 2006, where I operate Salter Pet Nutrition and Skinner Salter Partnership from, I decided to approach the site owners to see if they were interested.
“A deal was struck and I completed the purchase of the Carlton Park site on November 21. Unfortunately, in the meantime Tenza Technologies, who were not the site owners, was placed in administration with the loss of over 70 jobs and I no longer had a tenant.”
He is planning to bring employment back into the 75,000sq ft of buildings where Tenza was based and so far has attracted two companies, Frimpeks, a Turkish firm, and Ryco, of Ireland, providing around 15 jobs, which are due to take up occupation in a couple of weeks. He hopes to find other tenants to occupy other parts of the site and says he has interest from various other parties.
“Both Frimpeks and Ryco have told me they are in expansion mode and hope to grow their individual operations, which could be good news for jobs in the area,” he said.
“Within a reasonable period of time, we should see the same amount of jobs (as before),” he added. “In time, hopefully, if things go well, these people will be back in work.”
He pointed out that in its heyday, there were about 200 people employed on the Tenza site and he sees potential for building employment further.
Mr Skinner, who owns another 5,000sq ft of leased offices at the front of the site, said he bought two units at the site from Tenza about seven or eight years ago when Tenza began to downsize and has two businesses there - Salter Pet Nutrition and The Skinner-Salter Partnership, a property investment and development company.
With the Tenza site and the two units he already has, he estimates he occupies around two thirds of the business park site.
He believes the town, which was shocked by the collapse of Tenza last year, badly needs more employment, and hopes to become an ‘incubator’ for new business. Without employment, the town’s population would go to work elsewhere, making it a dormitory town, he feared.
“There are more and more houses being built, but no jobs,” he said. “The idea is I can create a business part for start-ups. At the end of the day, it’s about creating employment.”
His aim was to build the business community by creating a small business park which caters for start-up and growing businesses wanting flexible office and workshop facilities, he said.
“That’s generally what I’m trying to do - I’m not a charity, I’m trying to do it in a commercial way.”
The decision to buy the site follows his success with a similar venture at Horham, near Eye.
In 2009, Mr Skinner bought a commercial site, the former Broadwater Mouldings site at Horham Airfield, where he intended to build a new pet food factory in due course. It contained around 70,000sq ft of spare capacity, now fully let, and he recently added a purpose-built factory for renewable energy company Mosscliff Environmental. He enjoyed the experience and realised there was an opportunity at the site in Saxmundham, he explained.
“It’s important to people that they feel there might be jobs coming along and it lifts everybody,” he said.
“When you create jobs, you create people who are actually working the area and they use facilities in the area and I think that’s what’s missing in Saxmundham.”