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18 June 2024

Mid Wales Manufacturer Facing Closure Saved by Employee Ownership

One of the UK’s few remaining manufacturers of environmental test chambers has been saved from closure by transitioning into employee ownership.

James Technical Services (JTS) was established in Talgarth near Brecon by Glen and Sue James in 1995. The business started with engineer and designer Glen refurbishing second hand chambers, and Sue looking after company finances and business development.

Three decades on, JTS employs 10 people from its purpose-built factory and makes test chambers that can re-produce the harshest of environmental conditions, temperatures, humidity and vibration serving industries including aerospace, automotive and pharma.

Glen and Sue have been looking to retire, however, and thought they had explored all options before resigning themselves to closing down their successful business – until they came across the employee ownership model.

Now, twelve months on from starting the process of closing JTS, they have taken on a new Managing Director, David Hunter, and have ambitious growth plans to double their turnover in three years’ time, having fully transitioned into an employee-owned business instead.

Glen said:

“JTS is a successful business providing much needed jobs and skills in Mid Wales, but Sue and I had come to the point where we wanted to retire. We explored a trade sale, but we knew that we’d run the risk of the factory function being moved to another area.

“We thought our only other option was to close the business, which was a last resort as it is doing really well, but as we were winding down the business, we heard about the employee ownership trust (EOT) model and realised it was perfect for us.

“So, we contacted Cwmpas who talked us through the process and set about making the arrangements for the EOT. We quickly realised that we’d need someone to drive the business forward under this model and so David Hunter joined the team as our new Managing Director.

“Sue and I will remain at the business on a part-time basis during the transition period, but we are so pleased that David has hit the ground running with some ambitious growth plans, and that the rest of the team has welcomed the EOT. It is the perfect solution for us, and the future of the business.”

Managing Director David Hunter added:

“The fact JTS was transitioning into an employee-owned business was a big attraction for me. Having worked a lot of my life as a small cog in major automotive companies, to know that as employees we all have a vested interest in the performance of the business was a real boon.

“I’m looking forward now to pushing JTS to be the biggest and best manufacturer of environmental test chambers in the UK, and in bringing more skilled jobs to Mid Wales too.”

Gillian Byrne, who has been with the company for more than 25 years and as a director since 2010, said of the EOT:

“It has been welcomed with open arms by all of our team, many of whom have been here for a long time. Our customers have also welcomed the news and are glad that we are here for good, with plans to create a more dynamic business in the offing.”

JTS’ board now comprises of Directors Glen James, Gillian Byrne and David Hunter. The Employee Ownership Trust board members are founder Sue James, office administrator and service coordinator Andrea Lewis, and the independent board member is Jonathan Williams, Head of Battery Testing at Advanced Insulation Services (AIS). Support was given to JTS on the EOT by Christian Farrow of Acuity Law providing legal advice, with financial advice from Huw Palin and Martin Knight of BPU.

JTS was advised on its transition into Employee Ownership by Social Business Wales, which is delivered by Cwmpas.

Sarah Owens, specialist EO Consultant for Cwmpas, said:

“I am so pleased that the employee ownership model has been used to keep this thriving business alive. To see successful businesses fold and skills lost due to business founders retiring is something that we often come across at Cwmpas.

“When we explain how the Employee Ownership Trust model works, and how it can offer a long-term succession solution for thriving and ambitious businesses, there aren’t many founders that don’t favour it. We can’t wait to see what the future of James Technical Services hold. With a dedicated workforce and an aspirational new Managing Director at its helm, we know it will go from strength to strength.”

The Employee Ownership Wales service is part of the Social Business Wales programme delivered by Cwmpas. It is part of the Business Wales family and funded by Welsh Government.


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