Lens company eyes continued success thanks to Lancashire Business Growth Fund grant

A specialist lens manufacturer has set its sights on further expansion with help from the Lancashire Business Growth Fund (LBGF).

Morecambe-based Optimum Coatings has recently been awarded £80,000 from the fund towards the purchase of surfacing and surface coating machines. The total investment by the company is £448,460 with nine jobs to be created.

Optimum manufactures and coats lenses for the UK’s leading eyewear retailers and opticians, and the new equipment means it will be able to increase production capacity.

Managing director, Paul Bailey, said: “Sales have tripled and show no sign of slowing which means it’s the right time to make a significant investment in our future.

“The new equipment will allow us to both satisfy increasing demand from existing clients and win new business. We are planning to double our sales turnover within the next three years as a result.”

The laboratory currently operates 18 hours per day, but expects to become a 24 hour operation by the end of 2016 in order to keep up with demand.

Optimum was close to receivership until it was acquired by Paul in 2010. Since then the company’s fortunes have been transformed and it is now one of the fastest growing and most successful independent optical laboratories in the country and employs 35 people.

Paul added: “Investing in our people has been just as important as equipment. We have recruited 10 new staff in the last 24 months, and we expect to employ a further eight by the end of April.

“We’re also proactively providing career development for our apprentices and we’ve started a management training programme.”

The Regional Growth Fund-supported Lancashire Business Growth Fund is a programme offering capital investment grants and international trade support to businesses across the county.

Hugh Evans, deputy chief executive of North & Western Lancashire Chamber, commented: “Being able to assist Optimum Coatings in their growth and expansion plans cumulating in the creation of direct employment in the local area is a fantastic opportunity and we would like to see more companies benefit by coming forward to discuss their investment and growth plans. £4.4m grants have already been offered to Lancashire Businesses, so now is the time to open up those discussions.”

The programme has been launched by the county’s two accredited Chambers of Commerce – East Lancashire and North & Western Lancashire – in partnership with Regenerate Pennine Lancashire and is intended to create 600 new jobs and safeguard a further 200.

Its key aim is to accelerate the creation of sustainable jobs by encouraging companies to bring forward growth projects on a bigger scale with a larger impact at a time when those jobs are most needed. Businesses bidding for grants from the scheme can claim up to 20 per cent of the total project costs with the remaining costs leveraged from the bank or investment. To be eligible for the programme, projects must involve the acquisition of new premises, infrastructure, machinery, expansion or another suitable form of capital investment. Businesses are also required to demonstrate how many jobs will be created through the project in order to be accepted onto the scheme.