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Shopfitting firm aiming to grow

AGM Group, the Port Glasgow-based interiors and maintenance specialist, has declared its ambition to expand into the north of England and Northern Ireland as it projects turnover to lift by 14% to £1.6 million in the year to the end of March.

The company, currently marking its 10th year in business, is looking to carry its momentum into the next financial year after 2013 saw it land new contracts and invest £20,000 in manufacturing equipment.

The investment, which will allow AGM to assemble materials such as interior panels on its own premises, necessitated the acquisition of the unit next door to its Inverclyde base.

Last year saw the group, set up by managing director Andrew Meek with a small loan from the Princes' Scottish Youth Business Trust, work on a series of projects for high street businesses.

AGM Interiors, its shop-fitting division, is expected to break the £1m turnover barrier this year after refitting 12 Superdrug stores last year, up from three in 2012.

It undertook a range of refurbishment work for Halfords in Glasgow and Ayr and is about to embark on its first project for a major Scottish bakery chain.

The order book also includes the conversion of a former children's soft play facility for Euro Car Parts in Kirkcaldy.

EMaintain, the group's reactive maintenance arm, is on track to turn over £600,000, after extending its services from emergency repairs into building cladding and road resurfacing.

Mr Meek, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, is optimistic brighter economic times have returned after the "dark days of 2008 and 2009", when tenders dried up and developers drove down costs as contractors amid aggressive competition for jobs.

Mr Meek said: "In 2011 we saw things started to happen, but since the start of 2013 there has definitely been a lot more tenders and plans, some speculative, coming in. They are starting to materialise.

"People's impressions of the banks are more positive, they are taking more daring investment schemes to them, from what I understand."

Mr Meek highlighted the importance of retaining clients through lean times, citing the repeat business AGM has secured from urban regeneration bodies such as Riverside Inverclyde, and local authorities including East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde councils.

But it has also taken proactive steps to market the business, using a bi-annual newsletter and social media sites, which has helped bring in more business from Superdrug and newer clients such as Halfords. Mr Meek said: "That's where my optimism comes from - the fact these guys are starting to invest more.

"All we have to do is build on that and add three or four clients like that and all of a sudden we are talking about trebling our turnover."

Mr Meek, whose company has completed contracts for Aldi, Premier Inn and the NHS, tempered his outlook by expressing frustration that AGM is unable to tender for jobs of a certain magnitude.

He explained some companies and public bodies will only invite tenders from contractors whose turnover is up to between 50% and 70% of the value of the project, saying: "With a turnover of £1.6m, we can only do a job worth £800,000. But you can be 70% through pricing a job before you know it will come in at £1m.

"But we will find a way through - we just have to find more £200,000-to-£300,000 jobs and our turnover will get there."

Asked what plans he has for 2014, Mr Meek highlighted a desire to win more work with high street chains, and expand and take on more staff. The business, which has 14 staff and employs a similar number as sub-contractors, is currently in the process of recruiting a quantity surveyor. Mr Meek said: "We want to work up to being the best contractor in Scotland and [tender] for work in England and Northern Ireland.

"We have already worked in Newcastle and Liverpool and want to expand our horizons."

In the long term Mr Meek also has aspirations to relocate AGM's base from Port Glasgow to Glasgow for logistical reasons and make it more convenient for clients, architects and surveyors to visit.

He said: "I've always been a big supporter of Inverclyde but I've got to put the business's needs first."

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