There was a good degree of suspicion at Blackrow Engineering when an unsolicited email purporting to be from HM Treasury was received regarding a potential Treasury Minister visitHaving checked that no payment or bank details were requested CEO Neil Ellis advised that this should be followed up as it appeared to be genuine. There then followed a whirlwind chain of events over the next 6 days culminating in a visit to Blackrow by Rishi Sunak Chancellor of the Exchequer.


It wasn’t until the afternoon before the visit that Rishi Sunak was confirmed as the Treasury Minister who would be visiting. The morning of the visit became a blur as numerous Treasury officials, media representatives and security descended on Blackrow from 7am with all areas a hive of activity as final preparations and planning were put into place.


Finally and bang on time a parade of blacked out limousines arrived and out stepped the Chancellor. ‘Good Morning Neil I’m Rishi Sunak and thank you very much for inviting me here to Blackrow’ were his opening words. The Chancellor maintained this easy going and personal approach throughout his visit which commenced with an initial private discussion with Neil Ellis and fellow director Gary Pexman.


Neil explained how at the time of the first lockdown Blackrow had a full order book but this had soon reduced as orders were deferred or cancelled culminating in over half of the 180 workforce being on furlough by November 2020. The Chancellor was interested to hear how Blackrow had utilized the various government schemes including the VAT deferral scheme, furlough scheme and a CBILS Loan to help survive a very challenging trading period.


Orders had picked up in February/March and virtually all staff were expected to be back working full time by the end of April . Gary advised that the order book was growing rapidly and it was highly likely that more staff would need to be recruited. The Chancellor was pleased that the various Schemes had enabled Blackrow to ‘ride the storm’ and that further investment was planned to take advantage of the newly introduced ‘Super Deduction’ tax relief.


There followed a tour of the workshops where the Chancellor was very impressed with the Globe for Cleethorpes seafront which had been designed engineered and built by Blackrow. His courteous and understanding manner when meeting staff and young apprentices was particularly impressive and conveyed a genuine interest in everything Blackrow were doing.


His tour concluded with a visit to the Laser workshop where he was able to contribute to the laser cutting of a ‘Plan for Jobs’ metal sign which reflects the Chancellors latest initiative for economic recovery.  The sign now hangs proudly in his Treasury office. The Chancellor then dealt with a barrage of media interviews culminating in an interview with ITV’s Robert Peston which took place in the Laser Workshop. Then it was all over – the Chancellor bid Blackrow a fond farewell and he was gone and the mass of media, tv crews and treasury staff rapidly disappeared in his wake.


The next day Neil Ellis received a Thank You letter from the Chancellor with a personal handwritten note added saying ‘Thanks again Neil. Such an inspiring visit . Rishi’


It just goes to show that not all unsolicited emails should be deleted and ignored as you might miss something inspirational !