MORE than 300 jobs are to be created at the former Findus factory in Longbenton that was devastated by fire.
The Longbenton Foods plant is creating a total of 314 jobs as it continues its multi-million pound recovery from the fire that almost destroyed it at the beginning of 2009.
But with the help of two grants totaling 3.4m from regional development agency One North East and a short-term loan from North Tyneside Council, the company has emerged from the ashes.
One North East has today pledged a further 1.4m Grant for Business Investment (GBI) towards redeveloping Hall 4 – the crispy pancake hall – which was the area most badly damaged by the fire – once operational, the hall will accommodate up to 134 new jobs.
This latest round of funding builds on the 2m worth of support pledged by One North East in 2009 to bring Halls 1-3 back into operation, which will create 180 jobs, and will take the total investment into the plant by the company and public sector partners to 13.7m.
Longbenton foods managing director Vidar Engen said: "The true evidence that support from One North East and the council is giving tangible results is the fact that what was a fire damaged site at Longbenton with a doomed future has now been cleaned up, machinery reinstated, and we are producing food again that will be stocked on the shelves in UK supermarkets.
"It has been a pleasure to watch products going through our production lines recently and to see smiling faces on the shop floor.
"We are operating in a competitive industry in a generally tough business environment, but thanks to the great public support we now have a positive outlook on growing the business and employ more people over the next months."
The former Findus factory at Longbenton was forced to shed its entire 420-strong workforce after administrators closed down the plant when it was devastated by a fierce blaze in January 2009.
Thanks to grant support from One North East for the reinstallation and repair of on-site machinery, production of frozen foods began again in September.
Business finance senior specialist at One North East Pete Cocker said: "It's great to see that Longbenton Foods is now well on its way to reaching full strength once again after the terrible aftermath of last year's blaze.
"Working together with the company and North Tyneside Council we have been able to help the former Findus plant turn the tide on what was a terrible time for the company and its workers to give the factory a whole new lease of life.
"With this new round of funding the company can now look to bring back crispy pancakes to its product range and with it hundreds of valuable new jobs for North Tyneside."
North Tyneside Elected Mayor Linda Arkley added: "Longbenton Foods is a prime example of what can be achieved when public and private partners work together to deliver business solutions.
"The fire at the Findus Foods Factory was devastating for the company and the whole community as it was a valued employer in the Borough.
"I am delighted that as a Council, and with a range of partners, we have been able to help the company get back onto a firm foundation that will result in more than 300 jobs in the long-term.
"The short-term loan we have given, in addition to the Hardship Rate Relief Grant, will help the company access both grants from One North East and bank finance."
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