THE former Remploy is up and running again.
Workers have returned to the Manchester Road factory, which shut in August as part of Government closure plans — leaving its 48 staff jobless.
It is now trading as Ability Tec, making electrical equipment to cut home energy bills — and is the only Remploy factory to re-open.
The new owners hope to employ 34 staff over coming months.
Worker Stuart Wintle, aged 59, from Atherton, said: “I was with Remploy for 16 years including 11 years here. When the old factory closed I didn’t think that I’d work again. Getting a job when you’re 59 in a recession is practically impossible.”
Joe Gannon, from Standish, also aged 59, added: “I never thought I’d be back. It feels great. I hope the new owners make a success of it.”
Ability Tec is owned by a group of Greater Manchester entrepreneurs called Local Business Partners.
Oli Randell, the managing director, said: “The negotiations process had lots of challenges but Remploy and the Government departments were always positive.
“Part of the agreement is that we employ as many Remploy workers as possible. We’ve opened one month earlier than planned because the orders are there.
“We plan to have 14 staff by March and gradually rise to about 34. Bolton should be a good example for other Remploy sites to follow.”
Nigel Sarbutts, acting marketing director, said: “This business is now a social enterprise, meaning profits are locked into it. We’d also like to generate income through training and consultancy services offered to other businesses.”
The new owners praised Carl Lawton, aged 50, former factory manager, who is now operations director.
He looked after the site during negotiations with Remploy.
In July, the Government said 27 Remploy factories would close, arguing the budget for disabled employment services could be spent more effectively, 34 factories have ceased work and the future of 18 other factories is uncertain.
The TUC said only 35 of the first 1,000 workers made redundant have since found work.