Scottish steel firm to create 100 jobs after rescuing historic crane site

A Scottish steelwork firm is to create 100 jobs by the end of the year after buying a crane-building facility from its Finnish owner.

J&D Pierce has been involved in many of Scotland's largest steelwork contracts including fabrication work at Rosyth dockyard. Picture: contributed.

J&D Pierce secured an agreement with Konecranes to purchase the East Kilbride-based operation, which closed last year with the loss of 80 jobs after the Finnish firm warned it needed to “fix the lack of profitability” at the site.

The North Ayrshire-based firm, which has worked on major projects across the UK including the expansion of Gatwick and Heathrow airports, has acquired the 300,000 square foot plant at College Milton along with 14 acres of yard space in a deal thought to be worth around £8 million. Recruitment will soon take place for both manufacturing and office staff.

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Cranes have been built in the facility for more than 60 years and J&D Pierce said it was “delighted” to be able to continue production there.

As part of the deal, J&D Pierce has secured a long-term sub-contract agreement to manufacture cranes for Konecranes in the UK. The site will also become the headquarters for J&D Pierce’s Strubeam business, which specialises in the manufacture of bridges and heavy plated fabrication.

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Managing director Derek Pierce described the deal as a bold expansion move for the firm given the backdrop of a global pandemic. “This confidence provides further evidence of the first positive signs for employment prospects in Scotland in 2021.”

Work is set to start this week on a major refurbishment of the site. In August, Konecranes flagged it was considering redundancies at the East Kilbride site after revealing it has not made a profit for years. It admitted at the time that “difficult decisions” needed to be made.

In 2014, it had centralised its UK machine tool service to Peel Park at the College Milton site. The firm has its UK headquarters at Castle Donington and employs 18,000 people in 50 countries.

Established in 1975, J&D Pierce employs more than 350 staff across six divisions. It also operates a fleet of more than 30 vans and six articulated lorries. Its latest projects in Scotland include providing structural steelwork on a new office block at in Haymarket, Edinburgh. It has also recently worked on the new Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre project in Inchinnan.

Major projects in England have included work on building a new warehouse facility for Ocado Group and M&S at Purfleet in Essex.

The company was founded by chairman Jim Pierce who began carrying out light fabrication and blacksmith work from a building next to his home. The new jobs at the site will be particularly welcome in an area that has seen the number of people claiming out-of-work-benefits almost double in the last year.

Latest figures released last month show more than 5,000 additional residents in the South Lanarkshire region are claiming some form of out-of-work benefits compared to this time last year.

Although the unemployment rate in Scotland fell slightly between October and December to 4.5 per cent, there are concerns that jobless figures will rise dramatically when furlough support ends.

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