THREE decades after the emergence of a venture to manufacture rubber stamps for the office supply industry in north-east Scotland, a well-established Forfar business is set to embark on a move that's the very epitome of astute!
By the turn of the year, Astute Scotland Limited will have moved lock, stock and barrel from its current bursting-at-the-seams Brechin Road site to new state-of-the-art premises on Forfar's Orchardbank Business Park.
The 1 million relocation is the latest upward-curve move for a design and print company with a workforce of over 30, a firm foothold in Forfar, a presence in Aberdeen and looking to expand into Perthshire in the near future.
Following in the footsteps of the Angus Council and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Astute will become the first private business to relocate to a business park - work on which first started almost four years ago!
It promises to be a hectic second half of 2008 for the design and print company, following the start of ground work on a prime site, with business partner Alastair Donald planning to be operational at the new base by the turn of the year and January 3 at the very latest.
Mr Donald was on-site a week past Monday to witness the start of the preparatory ground work by contractors Algo Construction of Blairgowrie.
It is the latest stage in protracted negotiations for the purchase of the land, which began some 18 months ago.
"Having outgrown our present premises, and with no room for expansion, we started looking around for a new site to relocate to," explained Mr Donald. "We gave it a great deal of thought, but regarded Forfar as our home and where we wanted to stay.
"We entered tentative discussions with Angus Council with a view to relocating to Orchardbank Business Park and, in October 2006, made our bid for the land, which was accepted."
The Astute relocation proposals have since been given the planning thumbs up and now all that's required is for building control approval to enable work on the project to progress in time for the flit in late-December/early January.
"We need to be operational on our new site by January 3 at the very latest, but hopefully there will be no major technical hitches and we can press on with our plans. The staff are one hundred per cent behind the project and we are already focused on the move, with key workers tremendously supportive and meeting on a regular basis to pave the way for a smooth transition from Brechin Road to Orchardbank."
Once on site, Mr Donald feels Astute will be ideally placed to take the business forward.
"We will remain in close proximity to our office in Aberdeen and our new base will allow us to work on future plans to expand into Perthshire."
The new purpose-built two-storey premises - ideally situated between Angus Council's print department and the busy Glamis Road lead in to Forfar - will comprise a showroom, various offices, a meeting room, a graphic design studio, a print factory and storage areas, with ample room for parking.
Alastair Donald and his business partner, Andrew Price, are looking forward to operating out of the new Orchardbank site, and further developing a company that was established in the mid-seventies, initially manufacturing rubber stamps for the office supply industry.
Operating as A&A Slinger, the company - which continues today as the only manufacturer of rubber stamps in Scotland and one of the largest independents in the whole of the UK - has developed into various new sectors and now specialises in print and design, visual communications, office solutions, office interiors, advertising gifts, technologies and packaging.
The company also owns and distributes, on a monthly basis, an agricultural magazine to 5,000 farms Scotland-wide and operates a calendar business, producing Scottish and local town calendars.
A rebranding initiative in 2003 saw the emergence of the Astute name following a management buy-out by Alastair Donald and the then sales manager Andrew Price.
"We saw a niche in the market," explains Mr Donald. "There were a good number of design companies and an equally good number of print companies around at that time, but very few businesses working on design briefs and carrying out printing in-house."
In what are challenging times for commercial companies, Alastair and Andrew continue to drive Astute forward, keeping abreast of new technology.
The business now operates in Forfar with a staff of 29, a venture north into Aberdeen resulting in the acquisition of the print company Scotscan Limited.
"We now have a foothold in Aberdeen and our forthcoming relocation in Forfar will further strengthen our position, allowing us to target further expansion into the Perth area, with negotiations currently ongoing," continued Mr Donald.
The hope is that the Astute move to Orchardbank will encourage other business ventures to relocate - to create a vibrant business park on the outskirts of Forfar.
Meanwhile, Astute will continue to strengthen its links with the local community.
The business has acted as a main sponsor of the annual Angus Ambassador Awards in recent years, while Alastair Donald is one of the Angus Council champions and a keen supporter of the Forfar Business Initiative.
For the second year running, Astute sponsored the highly successful run for school pupils, which preceded the Rotary Club of Forfar's 2008 Marafun event, while, in sporting circles, the business sponsors the Angus area under-13 football development squad, is joint main sponsors of the Montrose five-day open golf tournament, is a part main sponsor of the Angus Show and lends its support to a kiddies football team in Aberdeen.
Astute is also a keen supporter of Forfar Athletic Football Club through its subscription to the share issue and a take-up of match-day hospitality packages, also sourcing advertising for the match-day programmes.
The support of community initiatives will continue as Astute gears up for the forthcoming move to Orchardbank Business Park.
Looking forward to re-location, Mr Donald paid tribute to Robert Wild of Bowman Solicitors, for keeping him focussed through the complexities of the negotiation and acquisition process, and also thanked local councillors for all their support - helping turn a dream move into reality.
The Astute relocation to Orchardbank Business Park has been welcomed by Angus Council.
Councillor David May, infrastructure services convener, said: "The joint venture partnership of Angus Council and Hermiston is delighted to welcome Astute to Orchardbank.
"We are confident this growing local business has made the right decision to move to the business park and remain in Forfar.
"We can also confirm that the joint venture now has an outline agreement with the developer Scot Sheridan, who intend developing business units of 3000 square feet and upwards at Orchardbank.
"In addition, there are ongoing discussions with other parties about further projects for the site."