Following the success of the last few Around Town Huddersfield networking events, attendance for the event was higher than ever, with plenty of new faces, although this could be partly down to the opportunity to see some brand new state-of-the art fire engines!
Local business people from around West Yorkshire braved the dark, wet Thursday night to head out to Meltham Mills, the site of the Rosenbauer UK Ltd headquarters. Guests were invited to mingle and chat in the upstairs office area, with canapés and drinks prepared and served by Holmfirth-based Black Cat Bistro.
Attendees were then taken downstairs to the main Rosenbauer UK Ltd showroom, which housed a number of different vehicles specifically designed for Fire & Rescue Services. Guests were in awe of the size and scale of the equipment, the innovation and engineering required, and the thrill of being up close to these huge machines.
Oli Smith from Aye! Agency introduced himself and the concept of Around Town networking, telling the audience about their aims to connect business people across different industries that are linked by their passion for promoting the local economy in and around Huddersfield. Oli then thanked the hosts Rosenbauer UK Ltd, before introducing Olly North, Rosenbauer’s Managing Director and inviting him on to the small stage to tell his story.
Olly North is a natural speaker, and told an entertaining and humorous account of how he’s got to where he is today. He was honest and humble. Standing in front of a fire engine that is custom made for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, he began his story by admitting that he didn’t expect to end up here.
“I never said that when I grew up I wanted to sell fire engines, but here I am”.
Rosenbauer UK Ltd is one of the fastest growing companies in the UK, and is widely regarded as a supplier of the best and most innovative technology to the Fire & Rescue Services. Their turnover for the last financial year was £9 million, with that projected to reach £50 million over the next couple of years, through organic growth.
Olly’s story began when he joined the army after leaving school at 17. He completed his basic training and was sent to Germany in 1998, where he became a Physical Training Instructor (PTI). He admitted that he found the army tough, but he learnt to become more resilient and resourceful, showcasing his determined Yorkshire spirit.
“Goodbye military, hello real world.”
After six years in the army, Olly left and started his civilian life as a personal trainer before setting up North Fire in 2008. His only previous experience with fire fighting was a brief period when he was in the army, where he lead a crew of fire fighters driving a 1950s-build “Green Goddess” which housed only the most basic equipment.
North Fire started selling innovative new helmets (supplied by Rosenbauer in Austria) for fire fighters with improved safety features and a more comfortable fit. As the company grew, they also started to supply thermal imaging cameras to Fire & Rescue Services throughout the UK. The company was based at a smaller site in Brockholes, Huddersfield and had external investment from Huddersfield Giants Chairman Ken Davy.
In April 2014, after recognising the strength of the North Fire brand in the UK, the Austrian-based Rosenbauer bought a majority share in North Fire, which was re-branded to Rosenbauer UK Ltd. They then began to sell a wider range of Rosenbauer products, including vehicles such as the “Stinger” and “Panther”. These state-of-the-art vehicles carry an innovative “Stinger” attached to a boom, which can pierce the structure of a burning building and deliver thousands of litres of water to the affected area to combat the spread of flames. This technology was used in the recent Grenfell Tower disaster, brought in from Surrey Fire & Rescue Service who had recently purchased the equipment from Rosenbauer UK Ltd.
Despite the nationwide success of the company, and EU-based investors, Olly North is keen to support the local economy in Huddersfield. His right-hand-man in business is a friend he went to school with and he encourages local recruitment. Rosenbauer UK Ltd take on promising new staff through apprenticeship schemes and provide the training and expertise required to service and maintain the fire engines they supply.
As he brought his speech to a close, Olly invited everybody to stay for a drink, mingle with other guests and have a go on their fire engine simulator. The simulator is used to train fire fighters to use the specialist equipment on board the fire engines and has a range of different scenarios to tackle.
Rosenbauer UK Ltd hosted a fantastic evening, and we’re really looking forward to the future Around Town Huddersfield events.
The next event will have something of a festive theme as we welcome networkers to the Huddersfield Winter Festival on 14th December 2017. The speaker for the event is yet to be announced, but there will definitely be mulled wine in our cosy tipi for you to enjoy!