A cutting-edge software company has uprooted from the South East to move to the West Midlands after struggling to attract skilled workers prepared for a daily jaunt around the M25.
Listed firm Solid State has moved its headquarters to Redditch from Tonbridge Wells to be closer to a pool of suitable candidates as it continues to grow.
The company, which counts the BBC, Halliburton and Asos among its customers, has taken a 10-year lease on a 50,000 sq ft headquarters in the region as directors seek to continue growth that has seen revenue nearly double in the last three years on the back of strong acquisitions.
Chief executive Gary Marsh said: “We found getting staff in the South East was very difficult.
“The West Midlands is the industrial and engineering heartland, and the communication industry in this area is strong.”
He added: “Now we have got the capacity to grow the business still further – if we need to upscale we can.”
Solid State makes products that can be found in items as diverse as surveillance cameras, submarines, air fresheners, music systems and computers in KFC restaurants.
The company, which supplies into the defence, oil and gas and environmental sectors among others, has seen revenue rise from £13.5 million in 2010 to £25.9 million in the year to March 31, 2012, with pre-tax profits more than trebling to £1.6 million.
Mr Marsh said the automotive sector was an area the company was looking to develop on the back of the move to the West Midlands – which has seen all but three employees relocate with the business. It currently specialises in bespoke computer systems and components and battery packs.
John Macmichael, managing director of the components arm of the business, which has relocated, said: “It is a good place to be because customers can actually get here and see us. Getting to the South East is much more difficult, and almost always meant an overnight stay.
“Here our suppliers can fly in all the time – it is straight in to Birmingham Airport and 15 minutes from there.
“And there seems to be a much more ready availability of skilled labour.”
Solid State employs 110 people, including 20 in the components business. The company has been boosted by a strong sequence of acquisitions in recent years starting with Steatite Group for £1.3 million in 2002, which has become its next-door neighbour since the move to Redditch.
Since the onset of the recession the company has bought Rugged Systems for £225,000, which has improved its share of the rugged computer sector, largely supplied to the military.
The 2011 takeover of Blazepoint for £200,000 got the company into a new market – mobile railway ticket machines – and Mr Marsh said he remained on the lookout for takeover possibilities.
Jonathan Jackson, operations director at Steatite, which moved to its new Redditch office 18 months ago, said: “We have had double-digit growth for the last four years.
“When I joined in 2007 we were about 42 people and now there are 83.”
Mr Jackson said finding the skills to fit into a specialist business could be difficult.
“What we do is very specific,” he said.
“We can’t just advertise for an engineer and bring someone in – we have to bring in people who we think are right for the business and develop them into what we want them to be.”