Belfast Telegraph

Martin's magic lands a fitting role in Potter film

Expanding a family business is not easy, but Brett Martin has done just that, says managing director Laurence Martin - and its efforts have even reached Hollywood

Despite difficult market conditions, Brett Martin, manufacturer of plastic products for the construction industry, is very confident about the future. Laurence Martin, managing director, explains the thinking that drives the Mallusk-based company.

There have been so many achievements in this business over the years and it is not always the most commercially significant that spring to mind. Brett Martin marked 50 years in business during 2008. This is a great accomplishment for the company, particularly as we remain a privately owned family business. My father founded the business in 1958 producing glass reinforced plastic sheet and since then it has grown to become a locally-based global company, supplying specialist plastic products from drainage to rooflight systems to distributors around the world. The company now has several manufacturing sites throughout the UK and employs over 700 people. Every development and step forward the company has made has contributed to this achievement and makes us the global business we are today.

We are very confident about the future. There is significant demand for our products and by continuing to innovate and develop the product range, I am certain that we can remain a global leader in our various markets.

Whilst we are best known locally for our drainage solutions, our facility in Mallusk is the largest polycarbonate extrusion site in Europe. Indeed our polycarbonate rooflights feature in major stadia around the world including Wembley Stadium and the Kensington Oval cricket ground in Barbados.

Furthermore, our precision engineered architectural rooflights are specified in all kinds of building projects from schools to hospital and high-end properties.

The Brett Martin product range is so versatile it features in everything from conservatory roofs to Harry Potter films sets. This gives the business a wide scope of opportunity. Add to this the fact that we have a highly skilled and loyal workforce and the continual investment we have made at our Mallusk headquarters, and you can see that we are continuing to move forward.

Even in the most difficult market conditions, Brett Martin has continued to invest in its operations. This is an absolute fundamental to ensure the long term competitiveness and ultimate survival of our business.

If we fail to invest we stand still, and a competitor will seize this competitive advantage.

As a forward-thinking organisation, there is continual investment in product development, new tooling, machinery upgrades, new production lines and new plants.

This year alone, in the midst of the global recession, Brett Martin has invested over £2m.

This has included the building of a new Technology Centre to house product design, quality assurance and product testing.

This year we have also invested significantly in new product development.

Our company has brought to the market new insulating 10 wall structured polycarbonate sheet options, which provides some of the lowest 'U' values in the market, and we are also about to launch a new architectural glazing panel at Batimat, a major European Building Exhibition held in Paris later this month.

We are also breaking ground in trialling and in developing recycled product options in foam, PVC and PET in response to market demand for environmental alternatives.

Recession is a challenge for businesses but it can also help companies emerge stronger when the economy returns to growth. What positives have you identified?

It has reaffirmed to us how important it is to be a lean business that plans ahead and acts decisively.

This has meant that we have been able to weather the recession and are well placed for the years ahead.

The fact that we have been able to remain at the forefront of our industry during such challenging times gives me significant confidence in our business strategy.

We are very pleased to be involved in a range of projects relating to London 2012. We are designing, producing and supplying roofing for a variety of venues involved in the games.

We have already supplied translucent GRP (glass reinforced plastic) roofing and cladding for the completed football and rugby stadium at the £83m Leigh Sports Village in the north of England, which has been included in the London 2012 Pre-Games Training Camp Guide. We are also supplying, amongst other London 2012-related projects, rooflights for the main basketball arena to be used during the games, vaulted rooflights for the Manor Park Training facility, which is an aquatics centre and polycarbonate covering for walkways surrounding the games' main arena.

Brett Martin is a large and diverse business, which means that we operate in numerous markets and in several different sectors. Some markets and some industry sectors are currently performing better than others, however, on the whole, due to the spread of the business, Brett Martin has been able to weather the downturn in 2009.

Have the confidence to act quickly and decisively in the face of changing market conditions.

The benefit of operating in numerous markets and sectors is that we tend to be able to weather recessions well, as not all areas tend to be impacted at the same time.

The global nature of this recession has meant that it has been very challenging, but as a business, we responded early and appropriately and have taken a number of calculated risks which have positioned us very well to benefit as markets improve.