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Calrec: selling an extension, winning over a community

“There was a lot of resistance to the plans,” recalls marketing manager Kevin Emmott.

For this month’s Strategic Position, PSNEurope examined the changes that have happened recently at Calrec Audio, both in its business and its culture.

There was, however, one such change that was purely a physical one: the expansion of Calrec’s Nutclough Mill HQ in Hebden, UK (pictured, right).

Based in an old textile mill with four floors and no decent goods lift, it was becoming increasingly impractical for the company to build and deliver large format consoles there.

The only way to expand, without moving to a new site, was to build into the car park at the rear. Perfect in terms of area, maybe, but flawed by the semi-circle of residential houses surrounding it.

While locals didn’t mind looking out of their windows at parked cars, they drew the line at large, ugly industrial unit.

But the planning, building and running of the Calrec factory extension is a textbook example of how to work with, rather than against, the local community.

“There was a lot of resistance to the plans,” recalls marketing manager Kevin Emmott. “Referrals and postponements, complaints on local web groups, until permissions finally came through.”

When the extension was almost complete, the really smart thinking came into play.

First, the factory was finished with a ‘green’ roof (pictured, right), whereby a matting material, loaded with seeds and other flora, was applied. “It changes colours with the seasons, you don’t need to tend it,” says Emmott. “And it’s good for insulation.”

Second, Emmott engineered an open day for the locals at the Calrec premises. It was the summer of 2014, and the Tour de France had just completed a leg around Yorkshire. So, schoolkids were invited to write haikus about the race – “bike-us”, no less – which would then be triggered to play back as each wannabe Bradley Wiggins pedalled a racing bike.

“People in the area don’t know what we do – certainly not for broadcast – so we said, if you watch any Premiership football match on the TV, or X Factor, it’s through our desks. We set up a mixing console here and let people mix on it. We made films about the mill, how it started in the days of the textile industry. I ran a workshop where around 50 kids and their families built basic audio amps.

“The event sold out.”

The day not only raised Calrec’s profile in Hebden Bridge, it led to the company being involved in other events, such as a recent software ‘hackathon’, wittly-titled “Wuthering Bites”.

And – although he’s too humble to brag about it – Emmott says a few people apologised about complaining in the first place. “They came in and said, ‘We had no idea!’”