‘THIRTY years ago on what is today the M65 between Blackburn and Darwen there were simply fields – and mainly fields either side too.
Now, confounding the ‘environmentalists’ who campaigned so vociferously against connecting East Lancashire to the main motorway network, there’s a host of modern works, providing decent employment for thousands of local people.
I visited one such factory, in Davyfield Road, last Friday – the headquarters of Heritage Envelopes Ltd.
Firms generally get in touch with me because they want my help – which is part of my job. In this case, however, the CEO Mark Sears invited me along simply because he thought I’d be interested to see what they did.
I was. It was a real eye-opener. This modern plant employs about 130 people, round-the-clock, with a turnover of £24m.
Heritage does what it says on the tin: it makes envelopes. I was asked to guess how many they produced each week.
I thought I was wildly exaggerating when I had a stab at one million.
I was way off.
The correct answer is more than 50 million a week; more than two and a half billion each year.
We all keep being told that paper, print, is on the way out.
Indeed it is to some extent. Much physical communication has been replaced by e-mail and the internet.
But just as I believe (on good evidence) that real books, real newspapers, which you can feel as well as see, will survive and prosper, so this firm is sufficiently confident that their intention is, over time, to up their weekly production to 75 million.
Heritage’s envelopes are used for direct mail marketing. What’s really interesting, I was told, is that sending a proper letter remains an excellent and cost-effective means of increasing sales.
While there I presented a 25-year long-service award to Steven Morgan, from Darwen, an ‘envelope machine adjuster’ – a highly-skilled position requiring more than five years’ training.
By good investment, and increasing integration with electronic media, the firm reckon they have a sound future too. They’re right.