Focus Dinner with Geoff Turnbull, GT Group

1 October 2014, 18:30 - 21:30

Seaham Hall, Lord Byrons Walk, Seaham, County Durham SR7 7AG

Anyone seeking a North East engineering success story that’s also blazing a trail in exports need look no further than Geoff Turnbull’s GT Group.

A miner’s son he may be, but Geoff wastes no time dwelling on the past as the company he established three decades ago carves out a solid future.

Having secured advance orders worth £100m, it’s in the midst of one of the most significant growth periods in its history with contracts to keep its 350-strong workforce employed until at least 2020.

Much of it is down to overseas sales to 60 countries with exports accounting for 80% of group turnover. GT Group has tightening environmental legislation to thank as truck manufacturers have been forced to invest in parts to cut diesel emissions, which has sent customers including Scania, Daimler, Volvo, JCB and John Deere flocking to Peterlee-based GT from across the world.

It led to the business being named as the North East company with the fastest-growing profits in the 2013 PwC Profit Track 100 and a top 75 ranking in The Sunday Times International Track 200, an independently researched league table that highlights Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing overseas sales. Geoff was also honoured for his service to the UK export industry with an MBE in 1991.

Geoff says he didn’t set out to create an export business, but looked at what markets needed, be it road transport in India and Brazil or the petrochemical industry in the Middle East.

The group comprises five businesses that design and manufacture products including emission reduction products for vehicles and industry, coupling systems for transferring oil, gas and other hazardous liquids and specialist coatings, seals and mouldings.

Last year GT took over a 50,000sq ft building next to its advanced manufacturing plant in Peterlee ahead of anticipated growth, which will see turnover grow from £40m to in excess of £100m in the next three years.

While the business is riding the crest of the wave at the moment, it hasn’t always been thus of course. When the recession hit in 2007, production and wages were cut. But it’s largely been a story of investment in plant and machinery, product development and people, and looking ahead to where the next potential growth is coming from.

The challenge now is whether or not to move some parts of the process to China where the group could attract even bigger orders by being able to sell its products at a more competitive price.

In any event, Geoff says he is determined that manufacturing will stay in the North East, keeping jobs in the region and recruiting locally as much as possible.

With that kind of philosophy, it’s little wonder GT Group is lauded as one of the North East’s most important and impressive businesses.

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