The Duke of Kent has praised Newton Aycliffe manufacturer Ebac for showing “courage” with its new washing machine venture.
The 80-year-old, who carries out royal duties on behalf of the Queen, his first cousin, visited Aycliffe Business Park firms Roman and Ebac on Thursday.
Prince Edward briefly spoke to VIP guests and staff during a special presentation at Ebac.
“This is one of the most interesting visits I’ve ever made,” he said.
“I’ve never before seen a facility like this where you plan to make everything here, I do admire your courage.
“It’s very ambitious and I’m sure will be a great success.”
Ebac’s dream of launching a washing machine line started five years ago and will eventually see it producing the only British-made washing machines.
It’s hoped production will start in the New Year, and Ebac eventually hope to manufacture more than 100,000 units a year.
“This royal visit is the perfect way to celebrate a very important day,” said the firm’s chairman, John Elliott.
“Ebac has a lot of heritage in manufacturing. We like making things. We’re good at making things and we break all the rules. Most people say we shouldn’t do our own plastic moulding, we shouldn’t make our own circuit boards. We do. We make our own metal work.
“But we’ve got to produce things that people want. If people want to buy, we’ve got the prices right and the products right. That’s what we’ve done with dehumidifiers and water coolers, and hopefully that’s what we’re going to do with washing machines.
“Five years ago we made a decision to use own skills and enter a bigger stage. This was a big project. It’s been difficult. We knew it would be. But we’re almost there.
“What does a big stage mean? It means big prizes. What’s a big prize? More opportunities for people who want to work here.
“We want to give more people opportunities to fulfil their potential.”
The new line has been developed with support from a £1m Regional Growth Fund (RGF) grant from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and a £6m injection from the company’s own funds.
Work to establish the production line follows five years of planning and ongoing research and development, which includes the views of thousands of consumers.
Ebac aims to secure and double its 200-strong workforce as it expands its product range, having previously rescued the Norfrost domestic chest freezer brand from administration and restored the UK-based manufacture of that product group.
With the recent launch of the Norfrost by Ebac chest freezer range the washing machines are the next step in Ebac’s 10-year strategy to become a recognised home appliance brand in the white goods sector.