It all started at Christmas in 1978. John Bush and his wife Sandy were visiting her parents in Horncastle.
Driving along Boston Road, they spotted a factory building, one of the first on the town’s new industrial estate,
At the time, John was the production manager at Norflex, a Northumberland based company specialising in UPVC land drainage systems.
The company was looking for a new site, somewhere along the ‘A1 corridor’ and ideally between Gainsborough and Stamford.
John was ‘sold’ on Horncastle...even if the site was worryingly close to his in-laws!
“The estate was just starting up, “ explains John. “We were the second company to move onto it. Morton’s were the first.
“There were nine employees when we started, me included.”
That was 40 years ago.
In 1994, the company moved onto a new site, again on the industrial estate.
That site covered six acres (32,000 sq ft).
Two years later, the company was ‘bought out’ by Polypipe.
Today, the site covers 29 acres (160,000 sq ft) and is Horncastle’s biggest employer with a 310-strong workforce.
From little acorns and all that...an amazing success story.
A wry smile lights John’s face as he recalls: “When we started, it never ever crossed my mind that we’d be where we are today.
“At the time, the MD (of Norflex) was Richard Beck.
“We were looking for a site and I managed to convince him Horncastle was perfect.
“I know it sounds daft really, but everything has just happened since then.
“We were fortunate when we started because the Government was giving grants to farmers for land drainage.
“Lincolnshire was pretty much untapped for plastic drains - it was all clay titles.
“The site in Northumberland wasn’t performing that well, and I suggested we should bring a machine down here and base it at Horncastle.
“At the time, we also had sites in Glasgow and Wales,
“Gradually we got rid of them all and brought everything to Horncastle.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
With typical modesty, John, now Operations Director, underplays his own role in a story which is so important to the area’s economy.
His drive, determination and passion have inspired many - and persuaded company bosses - to invest in Horncastle.
He adds: “The company has been really supportive of this site and the level of investment has obviously made a huge difference.”
Walking around the factory with John (he’s handing out 40th birthday cupcakes) he’s on first name terms with just about every employee.
There again, many have been with him for more than 30 years.
“We’ve grown up together,” says John. “They’re as much a part of this place as I am.
“Myself and some of the guys on the shopfloor, we don’t realise how big it is now.
“We’ve just grown with it.
“Someone like yourself, who’s come onto the site for the first time, is probably surprised by how big it is - and all the equipment - whereas we just think: ‘It is what it is.’”
John is quick to praise the commitment of the workforce.
“I have to thank them,” he says.
“I would like to think we (Polypipe) have put Horncastle on the map.
“What’s happened has to be a positive thing for the town and the area.
“For example, we run a fleet of 34 lorries.
“They all need maintaining and we use a local sub-contractor.
“New employees come to live here..they buy houses...
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.”
John can still recall the first employee - Alwyne Seabourne. He retired last year after 39 years.
Staff members include the likes of Dave Vanham who surely deserves some sort of medal.
He gets up in the early hours to commute from Loughborough.
Why does he do it? “I’m fortunate to work with some great people” says Dave, “and the fact I’m part of a team that has always adopted a ‘can do’ attitude.
“Although the business has grown at a tremendous rate - and the investment has been huge - I think the people here have also grown and developed with it. That’s the key.”
Dave reveals he usually gets up between 2.30 and 3-15am. “I like to be on the road by four,” he says.
Little wonder he likes to ‘chill out’ with his wife and family at weekends!
Dave and John both describe the 40 year anniversary as a ‘fantastic achievement.”
There’s genuine warmth in John’s voice as he says: “Dave’s just about built this place.”
Away from work, John loves gardening, cycling and eating out - and not always in the order.
He says the biggest changes he’s seen at the site are with regard to the environment and health and safety.
Certainly, the Horncastle site is changing with the times.
Robots operate on production lines while the company is rightly proud of a re-cycling system which turns used plastic into new products.
As John talks, he’s sat alongside Managing Director Steve Durdant-Hollamby and Group Chief Operating Officer (‘the big boss’) Glen Sabin.
Glen joined the company in 2004 and admits it is “fantastic’ to celebrate 40 years in Horncastle.
He adds: “This site has a very exciting future. The people here know it is also their business , operating in their town. We want them to feel a sense of ownership and pride.”