The creation of 80 new jobs at a Midland carpet maker hang in the balance after the firm’s US owner claimed it might invest in Portugal instead.
Carpet-maker Brintons wants to install new technology at its Kidderminster plant, but owners Carlyle, a US private equity group, said it could be persuaded to spend the money in its Portuguese factory after the country offered better incentives than Britain.
The Portuguese Development Agency offered a 45 per cent subsidy on the total cost of investment in new weaving technology, developed by Brintons, while the best Britain could offer was 10 per cent through the Regional Growth Fund.
Executives at Brintons, bought for £40 million last September by Carlyle, have met Business Minister Mark Prisk to request more support to keep new production in Britain.
Putting the new looms in Kidderminster could mean 80 new jobs at the factory and would support about up to £20 million of export revenue, according to managing director Don Coates.
“We are committed to giving the Kidderminster factory a new lease of life,” Mr Coates said.
“Kidderminster is going through a tough time. This is a factory that might have closed. If you don’t invest, it will do. What I was trying to do in meeting the minister was to narrow the gap.
“Forty-five per cent versus 10 per cent is huge and what I find extraordinary is that we have an economy, according to the politicians, where we need more manufacturing and industry.
“This company was loss-making for two years but we are now in profit.
“It is very hard to ignore a 45 per cent subsidy.
“We’re not the biggest manufacturing company, but we punch above our weight. Mr Prisk kept on saying ‘I’ve got no money’.”
Mr Coates said he hopes to take the proposal to the Carlyle board before Christmas.
Mr Coates said: “Carlyle is prepared to make strategic investment to support general growth. At the moment they are saying Portugal looks very attractive.
“The regional growth fund window isn’t until June next year.
“Portugal is a country that is meant to be bust. Everybody in Europe needs exports and those governments are ready and prepared to support exports and support jobs.”
The company, which has made carpets for Buckingham Palace and the Kremlin, employs 350 staff in Kidderminster, 200 in Telford and about 300 in its 20-year-old Portugese plant.
Brintons was founded in 1783 and remained a private and family-owned venture for more than 200 years until it was bought by Carlyle last year.