Casino Royale, The Lord of the Rings and Gravity are some of the Hollywood blockbusters that have used materials produced by a historic technical textiles manufacturer – which has been “transformed” by a new-look factory.
Baltex, which has been in business for 186 years, has invested £600,000 in its dyeing and finishing plant in Basford.
The company, which has its main site in Ilkeston, hopes it will help to boost turnover from £6m to £8m and create seven new jobs after unveiling the refurbished factory last week.
Managing director Charles Wood, an eighth-generation owner of the family business, said: “It is a proud day for Baltex to be leading the way with the production of technical textiles in Nottingham.
“We have invested heavily in equipment and machinery but our main asset is still the people who make up our business.
“It started out from a dye house that used to dye a bit of lace and a few industrial products.
“Now it’s a fully operational factory and it’s been totally transformational for the business because it means we’re taking all that dyeing and finishing under our own control.”
Baltex was founded by William Ball and his brothers Francis and Thomas in 1831, starting life as a silk and lace manufacturer, before adapting to specialist fabrics after facing fierce competition from cheap imports.
It employs 51 people in the UK, including 27 in Burr Lane, Ilkeston; 19 in Bar Lane Industrial Park, Basford; and five in Shepshed, Leicestershire.
The company also has a subsidiary in Poland, and works with agents in Hong Kong, Italy, Finland and the USA. Exports account for 60 percent of the business.
It provides high-tech fibres to the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors, such as those used in cut-resistant materials, bullet-proof jackets and aircraft pressure seals.
Part of Sandra Bullock’s spacesuit in Gravity featured Baltex fabric, as did Daniel Craig’s polo shirt in Casino Royale – manufactured by Long Eaton firm Sunspel.
The firm has achieved two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in 2003 and 2009, as well as an innovation prize from The Textile Institute in 2010 for its work in 3D fabrics.
Working with the University of Bolton, Baltex has developed a number of key innovations, and holds a joint patent for a novel range of wheelchair cushions and mattress toppers.
It also set up a separate business called Airospring. Based at BioCity, it makes a pressure relief cushion that aims to prevent pressure ulcers using its own 3D fabric technology.
Baltex, which has experienced a 16 percent rise in exports over the past year, produced a wheelchair cushion designed specifically for Paralympic cyclist Karen Darke MBE, who used it as she won a gold medal at Rio 2016.
The £600,000 investment in the 10-year-old Basford factory involved installing new knitting machines for automotive technical textiles, as well as dyeing and finishing equipment.
The purchases were assisted by a £150,000 grant from a textile regeneration fund led by industry magnate Lord Alliance, who co-founded fabrics multinational Coats Viyella with Nottingham-based Sir Harry Djanogly.
The fund aims to bring the textile industry, which once employed 350,000 people in the East Midlands, towards the forefront of the national economy again.
Mr Wood said: “Nottingham was once a proud centre of textiles manufacturing but still has many specialist companies thriving in the area. The recent investments will mark a new stage of growth for Baltex as it expands into new geographical markets.
“In 2008 Baltex set up a subsidiary company in Poland, which is helping to combat the threat of Brexit and is acting as a hub for business growth and development in the heart of Europe.
“Baltex is producing more and more of its specialist textiles in the UK for export and is now also targeting the USA market following an approval from aircraft manufacturer Boeing.”
In an independent report by PwC, it found that the total production of UK textiles is worth almost £9 billion and growing, and supports up to 100,000 employees in firms within key areas of the country.
The UK is the 15 largest textiles manufacturer in the world, with the value of production growing since 2009, and export growth across most areas of apparel since 1990.
To find out more about Baltex, please click here to be taken to their website.