AN ENGINEERING company has doubled sales and hired 80 new staff after taking on China.

Fort Vale, which manufactures valves and fittings for road tanker transportation, opened its base in the Asian country four years ago.

But in the past two years, as the UK market has struggled and lost ground to Asia, Simonstone-based Fort Vale has flourished.

The Chinese factory, which employs more than 100, has helped bump up turnover from £19million in 2009 to £42.5million last year.

And the success has had a positive impact on the East Lancashire firm’s UK base, with 80 new workers hired in the past year.

Managing director Ian Wilson said: “As China has developed it has rapidly become our largest global market and Asia in general is a growing market for us.

“There is a huge demand for our valves and fittings from the Chinese market and we opened our own factory there in order to satisfy demand.

“The factory is important because it gives direct contact with our Chinese customers, so it gives them peace of mind.”

Fort Vale, a three-times Queen’s Award winner, traces its history back to 1967, when it was founded in Nelson by Edward Fort.

In 2008, as the downturn hit, the firm moved to the 100,000 sq ft former LG Philips factory in Calder Vale Park, Simonstone, where more than 200 people work.

Fort Vale now has 80 per cent of the world market for design and manufacture of precision valves for the transportation industry.

Mr Wilson added: “The recession had an impact but we have recovered well and our new base in Simonstone is part of the reason we have been able to bounce back.

“While it was very tough for a time, we viewed our particular market’s issues as being short-term and that’s how it has proved to be.”