Picture caption (left to right): Komatsu’s James Nash and Patsy Brady with visitors to the GNEE

IT’S no fairytale chocolate factory, but one of the region’s blue-chip manufacturers welcomed a host of “golden ticket” holders, as it became a three-day exhibit in the largest showcase of all things “North” ever staged.

Komatsu UK opened its doors to the general public for the first time in its 30-year history to welcome 75 members of the public as part of the Great Exhibition of The North (GEN) celebrations.

Three free packed tours were enjoyed by visitors who claimed their places after the “Behind the Scenes of Komatsu UK” event was advertised on the GEN website.

They were given presentations on the history of Komatsu, a showcase of the firm’s products, and then enjoyed a guided tour of the site…as well as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive one of Komatsu’s world-famous excavators.

The Great Exhibition of the North, (#GetNorth2018) based in NewcastleGateshead, but embraced across the whole region celebrated everything “magical” about the North of England. The family-friendly event created a summer of vibrant exhibitions, performances, and culture and technology showcases influenced by innovators, artists and designers past and present.

Komatsu Managing Director, Peter Howe, said: “The Great Exhibition of the North provides a wonderful celebration of our region, from its culture to its industry, its landmarks to its people.

“Manufacturing and engineering excellence is something the North East is famous for, so what a perfect opportunity for us to open our doors to visitors and demonstrate how we’re applying traditional industrial strengths with cutting-edge innovation to create a brilliant product here in the region.

“Komatsu is part of the fabric of North East industry and the company has thrived since we came to Birtley. We are proud of our ongoing commitment to our region and its people and we want to carry on developing these great skills within the industry. Komatsu offers opportunities for many local people and being part of this event gave us the chance to celebrate the people and skills of the North East.”

Komatsu advertised the tours on the Great Exhibition of the North’s website and quickly filled the 75 spaces with families keen to visit the UK base of the world’s second biggest manufacturer of mining and construction equipment.

Carmel Fenton, of Birtley, attended a tour with her mother Pat Griffin and children Joseph, six, and Rebecca, 13, both of whom tested their driving skill on the Komatsu excavators.

“It was great seeing what happens inside the factory,” said Joseph. “It was fantastic, but the best bit was driving the machines.”

Rebecca said: “I’ve been in the factory before to sing at the Christmas Carol Concert, when I was a pupil at a local primary school, but I’ve always wanted to see behind the scenes.

“I love engineering and making things and hope that one day I could do a job like this. It was also really inspiring for me to see so many women working in Engineering roles.”

Carmel said: “It is fantastic to see a brilliant company like Komatsu embracing the Great Exhibition of the North and welcoming visitors to the plant.

“The business is so progressive and is a major driver for skills development in our area and events like this really helps drive home its value to our community.”

Komatsu also backed the Great North Engineering Exhibition (GNEE), at the Mining Institute in Newcastle. Working with Engineering UK, the firm was among a host of manufacturers showcasing amazing northern engineering to the public, as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Komatsu staffed a week-long stand, inspiring young people and the community about careers in the organisation and the amazing products manufactured at Birtley.

GNEE has so far attracted almost 30,000 visitors from all over the UK and from other parts of the world. The exhibition ends on September 9.

For more information on Komatsu UK visit www.komatsu.co.uk