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Olympics foray brings frame firm £1m boost

A Scottish wooden window frame specialist is enjoying a dramatic improvement in its fortunes – helped by having its work showcased in a landmark Victorian building in the Olympics Park in London.

Blairs Windows has won more than £1 million of business since its products were used in the renovation of a sewage pumping station as part of preparations for the Games. The pumping station now forms part of a generating facility which supplies power for the sprawling site.

Blairs supplied replacement windows for the building under a £300,000 contract which has been followed by a surge in business in London and the south-east. Business development director Allan French is heading up the push in this territory.

The company has won a string of orders from affluent areas including Mayfair and Notting Hill, where some people are investing heavily in maintaining historic properties.

Blairs has also been appointed to supply windows for historic properties in Scotland such as the Cambuslang Institute in South Lanarkshire and the Black Watch museum at Balhousie Castle in Perth. It also supplied sash and case windows for the legislative building in Ontario, Canada.

The contract wins have put the company on course for a successful year, just two years after Blairs Limited fell into receivership with the loss of 113 jobs.

Founded in 1908, Blairs suffered cash flow problems after being hit hard by the economic downturn and the related slowdown in construction and housebuilding activity.

"We are already on course to have a turnover of more than £4.5m this year – a healthy position from where we were in January 2011 when we had eight employees," said Blairs Windows' managing director Alex Gray.

The Blairs business was bought out of receivership by a group of investors. This includes the Arranglen investment arm of Sandy and James Easdale, who own the McGill's buses transport group.

Arranglen also bought the plant by the Clyde where Blairs makes its windows.

The company has hired more than 30 people to cope with the workload it has built up since the takeover. With 41 employees, Blairs Windows wants to recruit more skilled machinists and people who can be trained up.

Management hope to double the workforce over the next 18 months.

Blairs Windows had turnover of £2.7m in the year to March 31.

It faces competition from companies from countries including Poland and Ireland which have been moving into Scotland.

Last week, the Federation of Master Builders called on the Coalition Government to cut the rate of VAT on housing renovation and repair work to provide a boost for small and medium-sized construction companies.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the federation, said most construction SMEs are still struggling with falling workloads and competition from the informal economy. He added: "Independent research has shown the Government will quickly make up the initial loss of tax revenue owing to the growth in demand for housing repair and maintenance work."

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