Laurence Odie Knitwear Ltd (LOKL), a knitwear manufacturing business, based in Sandwick in the Shetland Isles, is increasing its workforce and investing in new machinery with support from HIE.
With assistance from HIE and Shetland Islands Council (SIC), the business is investing £219,000 in four new Stoll knitting machines, mill alterations and computer equipment, all of which will help it explore new international markets. They are already receiving steady orders from as far away as Japan and the USA.
HIE is providing £76,650, while the council's contribution is £10,950.
Shetland's knitwear industry is worth around £3m to the local economy, and generates annual sales of £2.1 million in exports outside the UK.
LOKL was established in 2004 when Laurence Odie, set up the business in premises formerly occupied by a similar operation, Laurence J Smith Ltd. Mr Odie is a former employee of Laurence J Smith and has 40 years' experience in the knitwear trade.
In-house production employs 10 full time equivalent (FTE) staff, rising to 14 during peak production on a seasonal basis.
Approximately 40 people also provide services as outworkers making hand-framed knitwear and finishing cuffs and necks on the knitted garments. The planned increase in production resulting from this investment will enable LOKL to employ up to three more FTEs.
LOKL works closely with customers to produce bespoke products which fit with their brand image and a back catalogue of garments has been created over the years which is used as the basis for product and design development.
More than 80 percent of sales is made up of products manufactured from Shetland yarn with lambswool/angora and geelong lambswool making up the remaining 20 percent.
The new equipment will be installed in November and staff will be trained on the machines which are planned to be fully operational and in production by March 2013.
Owner Laurence Odie said: "We are delighted with the investment from HIE and Shetland Islands Council which, along with support from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lombard Finance will help us to greatly increase the production capability of LOKL and realise our target of increasing turnover by over a third in the next three years."
Rachel Hunter, Head of Operations at HIE in Shetland, said: "The company will be able to increase capacity and accept more orders with this modern equipment, and it is hoped that the new machinery will significantly increase production levels. Shetland has a unique and globally recognised textile heritage and Shetland knitwear is currently very much in vogue in the international marketplace."
The business was also supported by the Scottish Textiles Academic Group's "Business Improvement Programme" during the planning phase. David Breckenridge, project manager, said: "The Scottish Textiles Academic Group was very pleased to be able to help Laurence develop his ambitious and far-sighted business plan. The planned investment and the level of support from HIE and SIC demonstrate a firm commitment from both the private sector and the public sector to the future of the textile industry in the Shetland Isles."
Sheila Keith, project officer from Shetland Islands Council said, "This is a project which sends a strong message that the textile sector is open for business in Shetland. The investment comes on the back of work concluded earlier this year into production constraints in the local industry, and is a significant step towards improving local production capacity."