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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
'Phoenix' firm wins export award
The 1995 fire at the Bodelwyddan factory
The factory was completely gutted in the blaze
A firm which has risen from the ashes after its factory was destroyed is celebrating a major exports award.

Allen Group Limited (AGL), which makes specialist tubing for use on lorries, is one of two Welsh firms to receive a Queen's Award for Enterprise.

Its factory at Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire was completely destroyed in a blaze 10 years ago.

The company paid tribute to the workforce's "outstanding commitment" in helping rebuild after the fire.

AGL's new HQ on the Kinmel Park Industrial Estate is called Phoenix House, a direct reference to the firm's successful emergence from the disaster that hit them in 1995.

Managing director John Usher remembers the way the company and the whole community pulled together after the tragedy.
It was an awful night for us - Friday the 13th in January 1995 - we lost everything
John Usher

"It was hard because we did not know whether we could survive," he said.

"But the whole community pulled together to help, setting up soup kitchens for us and letting us use their conference rooms to tell out customers what had happened."

But the firm which had been launched by just three people in 1982 did rise to the challenge, and the site reopened for business exactly nine months after the blaze.

Since it has gone from strength to strength and this latest Queen's Award for International Trade is the second for the Allen Group's boardroom trophy cupboard.

"But I think this means more. We are a much larger company and we have some tough times behind us," said Mr Usher, adding the biggest factor in the firm picking up its latest accolade was the commitment of its workforce.

Allen Group products
The company is breaking into the Chinese market with its tubing

The company now employs 150 people at its Bodelwyddan site and another 25 at a smaller off-shoot in Coventry.

But with an annual turnover of 25m and around 75% of its products destined for overseas, it is now taking its pneumatic and hydraulic tubes into new markets.

A small operation employing six people has opened in China because Mr Usher said that it was the only way to break into a potentially huge market, and a similar breakthrough is planned for India either this year or next.

But Mr Usher stressed that the main production base of the company is to remain in Bodelwyddan because low overheads allow them to export their products to Japan, the US and European markets competitively.

"It was an awful night for us - Friday the 13th in January 1995. We lost everything. But like the legendary phoenix we have come through."

  • Dansco Dairy products Limited of Newcastle Emlyn in Carmarthenshire, which produces mozzarella cheese and other dairy products also won the Queen's Award for International Trade.

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