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North-East van hire firm creates 150 jobs
A NORTH-EAST van hire company has delivered a 150 jobs boost to its home town.
Northgate Vehicle Hire, which has a fleet of more than 55,000 commercial vehicles used by tradesmen across the UK, Ireland and Spain, has centralised its customer support centre in Darlington.
The move to Sentinel House, in Lingfield Way, which is the former premises of Darlington Building Society, is part of the firm’s drive to reduce costs and to bring a more consistent service to its customers.
The company’s headquarters is already located in the town.
Following a ribbon cutting event at the new site conducted by Mayor of Darlington Paul Baldwin, Bob Contreras, the company’s chief executive, said: “We could have sited our new customer service centre anywhere in the UK, or for that matter overseas.
“But we have an excellent track record of recruiting people in this area, so it was a relatively easy decision to reaffirm our commitment to Darlington.”
Staff in the centre will look after a wide range of administrative work from booking MOTs and maintenance calls to handling customer service calls.
Northgate started life in 1981, when Alan Noble set up Noble Self Drive from his Darlington home. It now employs about 2,000 staff, about 400 of them based in this region.
In 2010, it began the process of bringing its 22 separate businesses together under the Northgate brand.
Regional offices have been closed, resulting in a small number of job losses, but the process is expected to deliver long-term benefits to Darlington.
Mr Contreras said: “Across the two buildings in the town we can comfortably accommodate another 100 plus staff here, which means that if we expand further those jobs will be coming to Darlington too.
“It’s great news for this area.”
The investment is part of a multi-million-pound programme aimed at supporting future expansion.
Since last August, £300,000 has been invested in Northgate’s Glasgow depot, £297,000 in its site in Grantham, Lincolnshire, £400,000 in a new site in Limerick, Republic of Ireland, £500,000 in depots in Kent and Milton Keynes, and £1.2m to set up a site in Cannock, West Midlands.
The company has also become a leading light in offering opportunities to young people through its engineering apprentice programme which it restarted three years ago. An additional 30 trainees will join the scheme this year.
“Contrary to what you hear in many quarters we have a very high quality of young people in this country and we should be talking them up and offering them a chance to prove themselves rather than knocking them,” said Mr Contreras.