AN ENGINEERING company based in Garelochhead is celebrating 40 years at the heart of industry in the village next week.

NJ Slee welding and fabrication was founded by Nicol Slee in 1979 and has since grown to become a stalwart of local business in the Helensburgh and Lomond area.

The family-run company employs 10 people at its head office and has taken on more than 230 clients in four decades, including Babcock, QinetiQ and chemicals giant Ineos.

It has also taken on three generations of Slee’s, after Lewis Slee started an apprenticeship in 2016.

Nicol’s son Steven took over as managing director around 18 months ago and told the Advertiser of his pride at marking the milestone.

READ MORE: Helensburgh pet shop owners moving on after 36 years

“I started in 1995 after leaving school at 16 and served my time here,” he said.

“I stayed for a couple of years before going to university and came out with a BSc in Quality Management, which is important to the future of the business given our line of work and customers.

“I went travelling for 18 months then spent around 10 years in the oil and gas industry working in Aberdeen, Monaco and the Middle East for spells. I came back to the family business in 2013 and have been here since.

“The company was started around the time when Faslane and Coulport became what they are today. It was all down to my father seeing an opportunity to go out and capitalise and work with these big companies. He went out himself and managed to build it up from there. My mother Maggie also had a big part to play in encouraging and supporting my father and the business, especially in the early years.

“The work just kept on coming and the bases kept on growing.

“In this wee village, it’s not exactly a hive of industry, so it’s pleasing to see a local business doing well.”

Nicol, 70, has now retired but lists many highlights among his time with the company, such as working on large link-span projects overseas and ending up as far away as Singapore and Darwin, Australia; demolishing the original ramshackle site building and constructing a more suitable premises around 20 years ago; being involved in naval exercises all over Scotland and even as far as the south of France, and, notably, the company lottery syndicate coming up for more than £75,000 around 15 years ago.

READ MORE: Faslane's 50 years at the heart of the UK's national security

Steven added: “A lot of the companies we work with are blue chip, so it’s great that they are showing an interest in us and sticking with us. It means we must be doing something right.

“Everyone that works for us is local and all the money is spent locally, so it’s good for the village and the area.

“We’re in talks with Minuteman Press in Helensburgh to design a logo for us to display on our website to mark the 40 years and I’ve not got anything planned yet but I may try and organise a lunch or dinner somewhere for everyone to celebrate.

“Looking ahead, we want to continue the long-standing relationships we’ve had with big customers and develop relationships with other areas of their business and really just continue to grow and expand.”