AN AWARD-winning employer which has been manufacturing in Dorset since the 1950s is set to close.

A consultation is under way with staff at the Poole site of Westwind Air Bearings about closing the factory.

The company has not said how many jobs are at stake but one source put the number at more than 120.

Bournemouth Echo:

A statement from its American parent business confirmed the plan to close the site at Holton Heath.

It said: “The Westwind business located in Poole, UK is part of Novanta, a trusted technology partner to medical and advanced industrial equipment manufacturers.

“Due to various business conditions, the company has informed employees at the site that it will commence a consultation period regarding the proposed closure of the Poole site.

“There will be no further statements to the media during the consultation period.”

A source said staff had been told the site would close by the third quarter of 2021, adding: “Production will be moved from the plant in Poole, once one of Dorset’s largest employers, to Suzhou China.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Westwind Air Bearings was founded in the late 1950s and was owned by Cobham PLC from 1995-2003.

It was then bought by the Massachusetts-based multinational GSI Lumonics, which became GSI Group and was renamed Novanta 2016.

The site at Holton Heath Trading Park has been responsible for development and initial production, while larger volumes were made by an operation employing around 130 people in China.

Westwind won the Queen’s Award for Innovation five years ago for its work designing and developing high speed drilling spindles, which are used in manufacturing printed circuit boards.

At the time of the award, managing director Steve Webb said the firm’s innovations were used by the likes of Toshiba and Hitachi.

“It’s one of the key enabling technologies to make everything smaller and also to allow the level of complexity to increase considerably,” he said.

“Our company is one of the rare ones that can genuinely claim to be world leaders in what we do.”

The company ran its own apprenticeship and graduate training programmes which Mr Webb said then would “ensure that our skills base in Poole is maintained for many years to come”.

The company was hit by a wave of redundancies in 2007, when more than a quarter of jobs were lost as more production shifted to China.