A Hull-based company that is the first in Britain to offer eco-friendly fire-retardant timber treatment is set to double its capacity with the help of a £100,000 loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.
The funding will enable WJ Fire Retardant to meet growing demand by installing additional kilns and boosting production at its plant in Kirkburn, near Driffield, where timber is treated using its FireWright process and supplied for use in UK and overseas construction projects.
The business is the latest addition to the WJ Group, which is led by local entrepreneur Mark Eggleston. He founded his first business in 2007 to supply timber components to the caravan industry. Two years later, after spotting a gap in the market, he opened a preservative treatment plant at the Port of Hull before launching a second facility in Rochester, Kent.
More recently the group has developed a range of innovative products including anti-slip decking solutions and lightweight ‘i-beam’ products for caravans. The business secured a £200,000 NPIF loan two years ago to help it establish its current premises in Kirkburn. The group now employs over 70 staff between Hull and Kirkburn, with a further six in Kent. Since 2019 it has doubled its turnover and is on course to double again in the five years ahead.
Danny Bullement, the company’s Finance Manager, said: “The new fire treatment arm has really taken off, to the point where the existing facilities are no longer sufficient. As the kilning process can take 12 to 24 days, we began to experience bottlenecks in production. The latest funding will enable us to double capacity and keep up with increasing demand.”
Gary Whitaker of Mercia said: “WJ Group is a real success story. Over the past 15 years it has repeatedly identified new opportunities and introduced new products and services, with the latest being set up in response to growing concerns over fire safety in buildings. We are pleased to be able to support the group for a second time to enable it to continue its expansion.”
Paul Grace of YB Financial Advisory, who provided fundraising advice to the company, said: “We are delighted to have worked with WJ Fire Retardant and Mercia on this transaction to provide funding to enable the company to continue its very impressive growth over recent years. We have worked with WJ Group for a number of years and are delighted to partner with them.”
Sean Hutchinson at the British Business Bank, said: “Helping businesses unlock their full potential through access to funding is truly inspiring. Witnessing how this funding has helped WJ Fire Retardant achieve their critical growth objective of boosting production is a testament to the transformative power of financial support and is a great example to other businesses in the region looking to achieve their growth goals.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.