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60 second interview - Le Lohé sees promise for Birse in the west


David Le Lohé has joined Birse as business development director for the southwest to aid the company's expansion into the region.

He talks to Emma Crates Where were you working before?

I have been based in the southwest for 15 years, previously working for Mowlem. I was involved with developing the local and South Wales operations. I was recently headhunted to join Birse.

They gave me an opportunity I couldn't refuse.

What was your percept ion of the company?

There is a big gap between industry perception of Birse and the reality of how the company operates today. People remember the days of lowest price and tough contracts.

Birse is remembered as being a claims-oriented organisation.

But that is absolutely not the company I've come to see. It's proactive, professional and has good people. Birse has a very focused view of the way it needs to move forward.

Can you give any examples?

One that demonstrates how we're targeting partnering and collaborative working is the M4/M5 project, which is the largest contraf low in Europe and is on time and on budget.

So what are your plans for the south-west?

Birse needs to continue with its core competencies, early contractor involvement roads contracts and infrastructure through partnering and collaborative work type contracts. The Midlands unit also has an extremely successful coastal defence business ? it carried out an award-winning scheme in Blackpool. I will be looking to expand that competency to the south-west and Wales, where there is a very big coastline and lots of opportunities.

Why is Birse is expanding into the south-west now?

The company has been there in the past, with offices in Bristol, Exeter and Swindon for example, but with the exception of Birse Rail it has not carried out live projects in recent years. The strategy in the past was to move away into areas for developing the business that would be more centralised and profitable.

Is now a good time to go back?

On the back of the M4/M5 project schemes are coming up in the Birmingham area and also the English/Welsh border. Birse sees good potential for the area.

What is your strategy for expansion?

We will be expanding out of the Midlands unit. Midlands currently has more public than private sector work. I'd like to get a good balance between the two. The intention that we have is to find the right opportunity, a key contract, then bring the teams down with us.

Are you worried that the regions might lose out due to the Olympics?

It's something all contractors are probably a bit concerned about ? not only about the work drying up but also the workforce disappearing.

However, we're not completely in the dark down here. The Weymouth Rel ief Road is focused on the Olympics, and there will be some spin-off work around Por tland for the sailing events.