Corby Business Centre's incredible bounce-back following lockdown fire

The site is home to 54 local companies that have all survived a turbulent year

Saturday, 12th June 2021, 7:06 am
Mark Scott and Marta Manuszewska of Positive Advisers and Fire Star Mortgages, Rob Davies of QDC Project Services and Ian Mills of Vital Vehicle Solutions

Late into the evening on June 11, 2020 Linda Connelly and Susan Jones arrived at Corby Business Centre to see smoke billowing from the building.

The cousins had been called out to reports of a blaze at the site run by Linda in Eismann Way.

A worker had escaped from the building and the fire service's quick actions had saved it from major structural damage, but the sight that greeted them was one of devastation.

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The rear of the building on the morning after the fire

"Thankfully the fire had been contained," said Property Manager Linda. "But that Friday morning when I walked in and you could see the black smoke and water damage and, it was just, where do we start?

The fire service had to break down the door of each office to check whether anyone was inside the building so the damage was substantial.

It's thought the fire was started by a malfunctioning piece of equipment.

Deep cleaning began less than 24-hours after the fire and now the extensive refurbishment is complete.

The Corby Business Centre today

Once the home of the steelworks training department, the building became home to Eismann's frozen foods after the works closed. At one point it even had a swimming pool and a gym. Eismann's exited the UK market a decade ago and the building was adapted to become offices and workshop space.

Now it's home to 54 local Corby businesses from sports providers and furniture renovators to mortgage advisors and a political party and is run by commercial and residential landlord Eastern Rose.

"We were really worried at the beginning of the pandemic because there were so many predictions about what would happen to businesses," said Susan, who works closely with Linda and is in charge at neighbouring Joseph House, also owned by Eastern Rose.

"We sat down and came up with a plan and we spent so much time making sure our tenants were getting the right grants. And a year on we haven't lost any of them.

How the building looked when it was the training centre for British Steel apprentices.

"In fact, many of them have expanded and grown into bigger spaces in the building."

"We've never been busier and we even have a waiting list now."

"We like to say that this is a place your business can grow," said Linda.

"You feel really proud when the tenants start off in a little tiny space and then they take on bigger spaces as their businesses take off. It's really nice to see."

The foyer of the building had to be deep cleaned and refurbished

After the fire, the man chosen to manage the refurb was Rob Davies of QDC Project Services, who has had an office in Corby Business Centre since 2017 when he moved to Corby from the West Midlands.

Executing the repairs was made more difficult by the pandemic because building supplies were in such demand.

"It's almost like a small community here," said Rob.

"There's no closed doors, everbody gets on with one another."

Corby Sports Dimensions manager Dale Page and funding executive Zoe McGhee work out of a base in the building. CSD runs activity and sports camps in schools and holiday camps, a sector which had to quickly adapt to survive the pandemic.

Zoe also recently won a seat on the North Northants Unitary Council. She said: "It's the type of building where everybody says good morning and it's really friendly.

"We have all our sports equipment stored here and we've moved into a difference space as we've kept growing.

"It's been a difficult year for everyone and we're really had to adapt what we've been offering like so many other businesses here."

Winnie Badza runs Xtra Healthcare from an offfice at the Corby Business Centre. Their office was next to the seat of the fire, but because of the home care they provide to vulnerable people, they couldn't afford to skip a beat.

"Lockdown was a very difficult time for us anyway because of the job we do caring for vulnerable people. We struggled to get things like PPE for two months. But thankfully we were able to move into a different office while the work was done and we were always kept up to date with what was happening."

Marta Manuszewska and Mark Scott jointly run their firms Positive Advisers and Five Star Mortgages from the building. From a start-up in 2016, they now have eleven financial advisors and three administrators working across London and the East.

Their office at the time was directly above the seat of the fire.

Marta said: "It's a great place to work. After working at home for a year during the pandemic I was really ready to get back to the office.

"It's a really secure building and as a woman it's great because you can park outside and don't have to walk for five or ten minutes to get to your car.

"We were worried at the beginning of the pandemic because of what was being said about the housing market but we're just so, so busy."

The fire has also given them the impetus they needed to go completely paperless.

Also based in the building is Vital Vehicle Solutions, which started out in a small space in the yard of neighbouring Joseph House.

Susan said: "The owner came to look at a unit in Joseph House and it was a bit big for him and so he took a small corner of land and a little office. Now he's got staff working for him and he's doing incredibly well.

"It's just so lovely to see all these local businesses growing."

The team held a celebration event on Thursday to mark the anniversary of the fire and the completion of the refurbishment.

Linda's next project is the renovation of the 6,500 sq ft warehouse at the back of the building which is being split into four smaller units which will be available in July.