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Laurence Scott bounces back with plans for a US plant

01 February, 2006

Laurence Scott & Electromotors, the Norwich-based motor manufacturer earmarked for closure by its former owner, FKI, is setting up a multi-million dollar production plant in the US. LSE was rescued last year by a US businessman George Clair, who has now negotiated the creation of the new plant in Louisiana.

The new 9,300m2 facility will be located in the heartland of the oil and gas industry, which is the main market for LSE`s HV motors. But Clair also wants LSE to expand into areas where the company used to be strong, but has largely abandoned in recent years. In particular, he sees great opportunities in small, specialised machines, such as those used on Navy vessels.

In the 15 years before Clair took over, LSE`s sales of small motors amounted to £81m. But by last year, they had dwindled to just £1.8m. "We walked away from a significant business," he laments. "You get sick when you think about the numbers."

So Clair plans to revive manufacturing of small motors at the US plant, targeting sectors such as the water industry, food processing and power generation. As well as building motors, the site will also assemble machines using parts sent from Norwich. Clair has no plans to cut the Norwich workforce, which has remained at around 215 since he bought LSE from FKI last April for £4.1m.

By setting up the plant on the site of a former US Air Force base in Lake Charles, LSE will also be bring employment to the area ravaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year. Clair expects to create at least 50-75 jobs within 18 months.

Last December, Michael Olivier, Louisiana`s economic development secretary (shown above, left, with George Clair) visited LSE`s Norwich plant to discuss Clair`s plans. LSE has since been offered a $50m long-term tax-free bond to help it establish the US facility, which should take about a year to build and is expected to start production during 2007.

Clair reports that LSE`s order book is the highest it has been for five years. The company has recently won a £1m order from Sulzer Pumps to supply three 11MW motors for Kuwait Oil`s Al Ahmadi Crude Oil Export Facility. LSE was competing against ABB, which is supplying the drives for the motors.

Clair is confident that that LSE will continue its resurgence, especially in the US market where it previously had little presence. "The US will be really big for us," he predicts.

This confidence is underpinned by Clair`s faith in the company`s staff and products. "Laurence Scott has the best machines in the market," he declares. "No one can touch us for low starting currents."

The revitalised Laurence Scott & Electromotors will be exhibiting its capabilities at the Drives & Controls Show at the Birmingham NEC in May. Other companies that have joined the show line-up in recent weeks include the Jarrow-based power resistor specialist, HVR, and Water Hydraulics, which will be making its debut at the show, displaying its range of air motors, pumps and cylinders.

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