AN HISTORIC firm which once employed 7,500 people in a high-tech factory has closed down after it went into administration.

Some 115 workers are now set to lose their jobs after Blackburn Microtech Solutions, formerly part of the LG Philips group, shut.

Administrators said they hoped to sell off parts of the Whitebirk business as a going concern.

But unions said that the ‘worst day’ had now arrived for the firm and all staff were likely to be made redundant.

Coun Mike Lee, Blackburn with Darwen council leader, said the development was a ‘disaster’ for the town.

And one business leader said: “The closure of this factory feels like the end of a very long era.”

The business, which first opened as Mullard in the late 1930s manufacturing radio components, was once one of the largest employers in the town.

But there have been a number of tough years for the firm, which focuses mainly on the production of cathodes for televisions, after a trend for flat-screen sets made the technology obsolete.

A deal with a distributor in China, where old-fashioned televisions are still popular, has now fallen through, forcing BMS into administration.

At a meeting on Monday night all workers were sent home and a two-week period has been set to find a buyer for parts of the business.

Neighbouring EDC, a CD manufacturer also based in Philips Road, Blackburn, is set to close later this year with the loss of 260 jobs. EDC also used to be part of the Philips family.

Coun Lee said: “If you think back to what Mullards used to be this really is bad news. I feel for all of those people who work at BMS.”

Jack Straw, Blackburn MP, said: “The business has really been hit by technological change. We knew that they were facing very serious problems because of a decline in their technology but this company was hoping to supply the third world market.

“I will be getting in touch with the company to offer support.”

Graham Coxon, from the GMB union, said: “The future is now very bleak for the staff there. Even if a buyer is found for part of the business there will be very few, if any, jobs saved.

“The market for cathode TVs has diminished but it is still there and I know that the company was trying to diversify.

“We will now be fighting for a fair deal for the workers to make sure that they get paid.”

As well as manufacturing television components, audio amplification valves, 3D X-ray scanning technology for airport scanners and energy efficient light bulbs were also made at the site.

Mike Damms, president of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a disappointing loss to the area but workers should be encouraged by the fact that the manufacturing sector is still thriving in this area.

“The closure of this factory feels like the end of a very long era.”

Kevin Coates, of administrators Zolfo Cooper, said he hoped a buyer could be found. He said: “We will consider all of the appropriate options for the business in order to secure the best possible return for creditors.

“Blackburn Microtech Solutions has a strong research and development pipeline, built from the company’s 40-plus years of experience.”

One worker, who has been with the firm for 25 years, said many staff were devastated to be told that the firm was in administration.

He said: “I am gutted. No-one has been paid yet this month and we have no idea if we are going to be.

"The wages are already a week late and who knows what will happen.

“Everyone knows its unlikely that we will keep our jobs, even if a buyer is found for part of the business.”