By Paul Williams

A Levin manufacturing business has been given a vote of confidence by new South Island owners who plan to increase production by purchasing new machinery and employing more staff.

Cordall, a braiding factory in Levin that makes a wide range of products onsite, changed hands in May this year when previous owner John Olifent retired. It is now owned by Blenheim business Solcor.

Solcor directors Mark Unwin and George Elworthy, who now travel to Levin regularly, had been looking for a plant to increase their production capacity as demand grew for their unique solid core bungee cord, and Cordall ticked all the boxes.

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The Cordall team in Levin, from left, Richard Liebenthal, Kevin Leger, Dion Brunning, Mark Unwin, Daniel Bellinger and Janet Leger.
The Cordall team in Levin, from left, Richard Liebenthal, Kevin Leger, Dion Brunning, Mark Unwin, Daniel Bellinger and Janet Leger.

Olifent, who had owned the business for the last 10 years, said at 73 it was time him to step back, and he was happy the business was growing in his absence.

"I'm delighted with what they're doing. They've kept all the staff and are investing in the business. These guys are young and have a bit of enthusiasm...it's a nice story," he said.

Cordall had built a good reputation in the fabrication industry, boasting successful New Zealand fashion brands like Kate Sylvester and Zambesi, and local company Swazi as regular customers.

It also supplied a diverse range of markets in the irrigation and medical fields, like medical tape and stainless steel coated bungy cord for electric gatebreaks on farms, with a solid core.

Unwin, who is the managing director, said the Cordall purchase was an exciting step forward for the business and central to their growth strategy.

"The business came up for sale and it was a good opportunity to get more product lines," he said.

"Not only have we acquired capacity with the machines, more importantly we now have an experienced team that produces a wide range of braided and knitted products. We are looking forward to entering new markets established by the Levin business."

Levin man Dion Brunning has joined the staff at Cordall.
Levin man Dion Brunning has joined the staff at Cordall.

Unwin said the company and production plant would retained the Cordall business and brand name. Solcor has retained the name and applied it to their entire operation.

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"We continue to produce Solcor Solid Core Bungee but now we make so much more. It makes sense for us to retain the Cordall name and apply it to our entire product range," he said.

Cordall had built a good reputation in the fabrication industry, boasting successful New Zealand fashion brands like Kate Sylvester and Zambesi, and local company Swazi as regular customers.

It also supplied a diverse range of markets in the irrigation and medical fields, like medical tape and stainless steel coated bungy cord for electric gatebreaks on farms.

Unwin said Cordall was committed to New Zealand manufacturing and had invested in new machinery at the Levin office, and had recently appointed an additional member to the production team.

"We still have the shop that has all manner of cords, braids and elastics as well as a range of colours but the main focus is in the production of reliable innovative products for the clothing, medical, farming and irrigation markets," he said.

Cordall had manufactured cord, tape and elastic for more than 40 years. It originally began as a sock making factory called Neat Fit by Levin men Jim Watson and Len Rees.

Levin man Bruce Parrant invested in the business in the early 1980s and in 1985 it seperating the sock making from the division making elastic and cord, which was called Cordall.

Neatfit was recognised as one of the key contributors to the Americas Cup Red Socks campaign headed by the late Sir Peter Blake, and produced more than 20,000 pairs, along with fellow Levin sock makers Lindsay Royal and Comfort Socks.

Daniel Bellinger at the Cordall plant in Levin
Daniel Bellinger at the Cordall plant in Levin

Neat Fit closed in 2011, Parrant said as a result of cheap import socks flooding the market.