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Kerr & Smith makes £1.6m investment in permanent site

A FAMILY-owned vehicle repair business is formally opening its new premises today following an investment of around £1.6 million.

Kerr & Smith had operated its commercial vehicle service from rented premises in Ayr since 2009.

But chairman Jim Smith and business partner Bill Kerr were keen to invest in a permanent base to allow them to handle more customers but were unable to raise enough funding during the recession.

Now they have secured a £500,000 commercial mortgage from RBS as well as £100,000 of asset finance from Lombard to purchase specialist equipment to fit out a large vehicle MOT lane, as well as eight service bays.

Mr Smith said the company and its directors had invested around £1m, while further support had been received from the West of Scotland Loan Fund and Scottish Enterprise.

A separate fund run by GlaxoSmithKline to help local businesses had been used to Kerr & Smith fund two apprentice positions.

According to Mr Smith the new site is more environmentally friendly and offer greater access to vehicles meaning the logistics of running it are more efficient.

There will be 10 people employed initially at the site but the company hopes to treble that over the next three to five years.

It has also predicted turnover will grow from £24m to £30m during the same time period.

Mr Smith said: "We will steadily build up in the new facility. We are hoping we will move that forward to 30 plus jobs eventually."

Another factor in the decision to invest the money was the phasing out of government run MOT centres for large vehicles which is planned for the next 18 months.

Kerr & Smith has been granted approval by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency to provide bus and truck MOTs.

Mr Smith described that sector as a "real opportunity" for the company and said: "That MOT lane is only operating one day a week at the moment but it will build up."

Mr Smith said the company's sites, which also include Cumnock and Glasgow, are now run by his and Mr Kerr's sons, Chester and William Smith and Paul Kerr.

He said: "The new premises was part of our succession plan - it is all part of future proofing."

Michael McCuaig, relationship director at RBS, said: "Jim and Bill continually ensure that they reinvest in the business and are flexible."

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