Family-run Lancaster construction firm marks 70 years in business
One of Lancaster's longest-standing businesses is marking a significant milestone this year, having overcome a turbulent period which saw a company reshuffle amid difficult circumstances.
But having got through it, Pinington directors are now confident as they move into a new decade of business that the company can hold its own in an uncertain and changing future.
Since it was launched in Aldrens Lane, not far from the Vale Road home of its founder Victor Ellis Pinington, the construction firm has continually sought to broaden its client base and apply new skills and techniques to its operations in order to meet the needs of its customers.
The company’s multi-skilled workforce has achieved remarkable results in recent years, and has been rewarded for its efforts with a North West SME Construction Company of the Year award in 2016, as well as this year being named Construction Business of the Year in the Lancashire BIBAs.
Established in 1948, Pinington remains a family business with the third generation now in the directors’ seat.
Initially trading as heating and plumbing engineers, Pinington gradually moved into main contracting works where it progressively expanded into being the highly respected multi-faceted building company that it is today.
During the early 1980s the company was involved in the refurbishment of council housing stock, providing plumbing and heating services.
The move into the construction sector came about as a result of the previous experience of one of the founder members.
John Ayrton’s building management background helped the company to both develop its construction arm and then go on to succeed in winning numerous key projects in and around Lancashire and Cumbria.
The company has grown steadily ever since.
In 2004, John’s son Mark, along with Steve Black, Nick Pinington and Tom Pinington, joined the board of directors as the third generation of the family.
Shortly after these appointments John retired from his position as managing director and was replaced by Mark.
However, in March 2017, Mark sadly and unexpectedly passed away at the age of 48.
His untimely passing coincided with the planned retirement of Steve Black from his role as commercial director and as a result in mid 2017 Tom Pinington took up the position of managing director and Jeremy Hackett replaced Steve Black as commercial director.
It was a steep learning curve, but one that has seen the firm come out the other side strongly.
As a sign of the company’s recent resurgence, Pinington was voted Construction Business of the Year in the 2018 BIBAs – Lancashire’s prestigious business awards.
“We entered the awards not really expecting to win,” commercial manager Peter Heskine said, “but it’s testament to us that we are on the right track.
“We have had a rough 18 months but we must be doing something right.”
“They could see what the company has been through and how we have managed to keep going,” Tom added. “It’s been a turbulent time but everyone has pitched in; we have had to make some drastic changes about how the company is run and it’s not been easy.”
Jeremy said: “The construction industry is not good at the moment but to do what we have done and complete what projects we had on when Mark died was a tall order.
“None of us had been an MD before, but Mark’s father John came in and advised on how to take the company forward because he wanted to see the company continue, and that family tie helped a lot.
“John is so positive about the future of the company. I am still seeking his advice and regularly talk to him on the phone.”
John’s grandson Ben is now an apprentice at Pinington, bringing the company its fourth generation.
Pinington now, as they have for many years, embrace the industry in both building and mechanical and electrical services, and continue to evolve their integrated services to suit the ever-changing market.
“You have always got to evolve,” Jeremy said. “We are now looking to build the electrical and new technologies side of the business.
“We have got a new computer system coming in in the new year; you have got to keep moving.”
At its peak in the 1970s Pinington was the biggest mechanical firm in the north west, employing more than 100 people.
The firm currently employs 35 people in a range of roles, including joiners, bricklayers, labourers, plumbers and electricians, as well as 10 office staff. Several employees can boast more than 40 years’ service.
“We have tried to elevate people who have been with us for many years to help run the company,” Tom said. “There are several people here who have worked their way up.”
The firm has extensive experience in numerous projects across a variety of public and private sector schemes throughout Lancashire and Cumbria, including new builds, electrical and mechanical, extensions, refurbishments and alteration work within a value range of £50,000 to £2.5m.
Previous work has included the education, health, hotels and leisure and social housing sectors.
Other projects include commercial offices, retail, commercial industrial units, nursing and care homes, residential, listed buildings, private developments and community projects.
However, the construction industry – along with many others – faces an uncertain future as Brexit looms large on the horizon.
“I think Brexit has definitely put an uncertainty into the market,” Jeremy said. “It’s holding back businesses from expanding until the situation is clearer, which is having an effect on tenders.”
In the meantime, the company is focusing on its loyal customers, which include both Lancashire and Cumbria County Councils, Lancaster University, University of Cumbria, Myerscough College and Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Trust.
Indeed, work has just started on a large £1.8m A&E extension at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, which is due for completion in May 2019.
Notable Pinington construction jobs around the district from recent years include the Knight’s Bridge apartments in Aldcliffe Road, the Royal Lancaster Infirmary education centre, Lancaster bus station, refurbishment of Hillcroft nursing homes, Lancaster market, refurbishment work at Lancaster & Morecambe College and Myerscough College, the building housing the Green Ayre Wetherspoon’s pub and DW Sports, the sports centre, library, two teaching blocks and the Gateway building at the University of Cumbria, internal refurbishment work at Lancaster police station, and refurbishment work at Lancaster University.
After a traumatic period for all connected with the company, a focus on keeping business local in recent times means Pinington bosses can tentatively look forward to a brighter future.
“People like to keep everything local now,” Peter said. “That’s been a big thing in the last few years.”
“We have an advantage with that because we carry so many trades in-house, we can turn our hands to a lot of problem solving,” Jeremy added. “It’s another string to our bow and it provides the personal touch which clients like.”