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60 second interview - Something special is going on at Ocon

NEWS - Ocon Construction started operating a special projects division in March. Joanna Booth talks to Dave Ledwidge, construction director of the new arm, about the venture

How did you get into the industry?

I served my time as an apprentice with General Asphalt and have been working my way up ever since. My background has been predominantly in the leisure sector. I was approached by the guys from Ocon Construction to come and head up the special projects team alongside Phil Hawthorne as commercial director. We will be responsible for developing the new division.

Isn't Ocon Construction a new venture in itself?

Yes, it's been trading since May 2004. It's one of the fastest growing construction companies in the UK, with a forecast turnover of £100 million for this year. Last year it was £32 million. It operates from offices in Manchester, Tamworth and Leeds.

It has just fought off competition from Carillion and David McLean to win a £45 million contract in Leeds, building apartments worked on by the French designer Philippe Starck. Our parent company, Opal Property Group, specialises in residential accommodation.

What prompted the launch of a special projects division?

We will fill a niche in the market which Ocon isn't currently catering for. Our mainstay will be projects from £250,000 to £10 million. The key markets we will target are commercial, residential, leisure and local authority work. Our main focus in the local authority sector will be education and hospitals. We will be going for PFI deals in the north-west because of the way these things are let, but we will work across the country for private sector clients.

We have a team of 19 people working from our base in Standish near Wigan who have many years of experience working on these types of projects. While the division will operate as a separate cost centre, the staff will be integrated into Ocon's business as a whole.

What projects are you currently working on?

We have just secured work with two major clients. Bruntwood, a Manchester-based development company, is our client on a £7.5 million project to redevelop an existing office building. We have also signed an ongoing framework with Taggart Homes to provide residential developments, apartments and bespoke housing for them nationwide.

What are your targets for Ocon Special Projects?

We expect our turnover for the coming year to exceed £20 million, and we're on target to achieve this. Our five-year plan is for major growth, encompassed within Ocon Construction's ambitious schedule.

It's early days at the moment but we are looking to recruit those who are used to working in the fast track.

Who do you see as your major competitors?

With the growth of the group as a whole we will be competing with the major nationals for work. As a special projects division we can offer a niche service catering for smaller projects for national clients.