Often described as the grand old man of Teesside industry, Barney Ord of Fairfield Industries gave us his opinion on the local businesspeople who most inspire him when we asked him to vote in our annual poll…
In first place I put Richard Barker, chairman of Barker & Stonehouse. In his late 20s, Richard bought out his father’s partner Alex Stonehouse, and later bought out his father and other family members so that he owned outright Barker & Stonehouse, which then had one furniture shop in Newport Road, Middlesbrough.
Since then, he has expanded Barker & Stonehouse to become Britain’s number one retail furnisher, with stores in Brighton, Guildford, London, and every major northern town and city. In total, they now have more than 20 stores.
Richard has managed to do this without external capital, whilst keeping his headquarters and all his business affairs in Middlesbrough. He still lives on Teesside, still banks on Teesside and has his accountants on Teesside, which I think is rather special at a time when many very successful Teesside people have foreign-based holding companies.
In second place, I put Alastair Powell. When his family’s Middlesbrough business (Arthur Jones & Company Electrical Wholesalers) failed, Alastair went into business on his own account, starting Cleveland Cable Company, which he has built into Britain’s largest cable supply company.
Again, he still banks in Middlesbrough, his accountants are the same ones he started with, and he still lives in the area and is totally devoted to the town – with his business still based close to Metz Bridge, where he started. Again, Alastair is a Teessider we can be genuinely proud of, having inspired so many other people.
In third place, I put Javed Ahmed Majid. Although he is of Pakistani origin and birth, Javed has lived in this country most of his adult life. He had to put up with a lot of prejudice when he first started in the night club business but went on to run a hugely successful hotel and nightclub complex at Tall Trees.
He went on to move into housing development and is now building a care home village at the top of Leven Bridge as he continues to expand his considerable empire in the North-East.
Javed and his family still live here on Teesside, he is an avid Boro supporter and very proud indeed of the way Middlesbrough have adopted him as one of their own.
I am no longer a young man but I have watched with great admiration the progress of these three people who have done it on their own.
Of course, Steve Gibson, has done fantastically well too, with Bulkhaul and the football club, but Steve has always had a partner, Michael O’Neill. Steve also now has overseas holding companies and, while he owns Middlesbrough Football Club, I understand that he lives some distance from the town.
Although Steve has been my choice as the region’s most inspiring businessperson in previous years, I do feel that there are others who are an inspiration to us all and prove the old adage that by enthusiastic hard work there is nothing you cannot do.