Caro commends council’s support with Maidstone move
Finding the right location for a foundry is no easy task but Dave Lowe, Group Finance Director for Caro, was bowled over by the support he received when the company relocated to Maidstone.
"The local authority just wasn’t something that factored in our decision making when looking for a new building. But the help we’ve had from Maidstone Borough Council is like nothing we’ve experienced before."
The Caro group provides flood defence systems, paving, decking, roof and floor drainage products. The foundry arm of the business, Maybrey, manufactures cast iron, SG iron, bronze and aluminium die castings. The business found the ideal premises in the borough in September 2019 that could encompass the whole group, but unfortunately the building was not without its issues.
“It was in an awful state – the roof had fallen in, asbestos was everywhere and the rats had moved in,” explains Dave. “We thought we could make it work but needed a lot of help.”
As soon as they contacted Maidstone Borough Council, they were greeted with genuine enthusiasm and support. Planning Officer, William Fletcher, immediately helped the firm by providing essential planning guidance producing a report on the location, covering planning policies, land contamination, noise, and the asbestos which concluded that a permit wasn’t necessary - something Dave says was a huge help. Duncan Haynes and Steve Wilcock from Environmental Services offered casting assistance and took time to understand the metal-melting and recycling processes.
Soon after, Dave contacted Economic Development Officer, Rachael Bennett. As well as providing Caro with information about grants, Rachael put him in touch with relevant contacts and organised a meeting at the Business Terrace with LOCASE, Maximise Growth, Kent & Medway Business Fund, Locate In Kent and the rates team.
“Rachael was a shining star,” says Dave. “She bent over backwards to connect us with the right people and even put us in touch with other businesses who’d had similar issues to us so they could share their experience. This kind of network of help was previously completely alien to us.”
With MBC’s help, Caro received assistance to pay for a full asbestos survey. They also received a LOCASE grant of £10,000 towards replacing the old, hugely expensive sodium lighting in the building with a low energy alternative.
When told by the power company they were unable to close roads in the local retail areas for essential repairs during Christmas 2020, even though shops were closed due to the pandemic, Streetworks Manager Chris Seare stepped in. He set about introducing Caro to the local shop-owners who agreed they were happy for works to take place. Although currently experiencing power issues, MBC is, Dave says, “pulling out all the stops” to help.
So how is the building and business now?
“We’ve been on site for six months and are about 90% moved in,” explains Dave. “We completely gutted the building - it’s fantastic now and the road and access are great. We’ve also recruited six more staff since moving in.”
With construction work continuing throughout the pandemic, the roof, drainage and flood arms of the business are booming as new homes are built and homeowners look to improve and extend. Maybrey’s customer base has also grown and they’ve picked up business from several other foundries. It means they are fortunate enough to be able to select the ‘right’ work which includes some interesting and unusual projects. As well as manufacturing parts for aerospace division, the MOD and RAF, Maybrey has also been working on producing art installations in Central Park, New York, replacing the huge ornate floor grills in the V&A Museum, an exciting project for the Natural History Museum as well as work to support local artists.
What advice would Dave give to other businesses looking to set up or relocate?
“Don’t underestimate the importance of having a council that helps you. MBC really took the time to understand our core values and anticipate the problems we might face. They’re proactive and actually call us to find out what we need. It’s made our transition to Maidstone so much easier and we feel confident about the future knowing they’re on our side.”