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Business / LEF set for further growth after management buyout

LEF managing director Jake Watt: "Offshore wind is going to be a major factor in Shetland'. Photos: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

FOLLOWING a management buyout, the new owner of well-established local engineering firm LEF says he is keen to capitalise on the opportunities offered by Shetland’s burgeoning energy transition sector.

Shares in the company, based at the Greenhead Base, have been transferred from directors David Suckley and William Coghill to the company’s managing director Jake Watt.

The company was in founded in 1994 and both directors are now retiring.

Watt, who joined LEF as a workshop manager six years ago, said he was keen to continue the process of diversifying the services the company had to offer.

The engineering and fabrication firm has traditionally served the oil and gas industry, but Watt said the boom in infrastructure projects locally is offering ideal opportunities to expand.

“What we have been doing since Covid is diversifying into other sectors based on the skills we have gained in the oil and gas industry,” he said.

This includes steel fabrication work for other customers such as the port authority, the energy recovery plant (incinerator) as well as the Lerwick district heating scheme.

Watt said the company is also moving into serving the energy transition sector, in particular offshore wind as well as wave and tidal.

“With the upcoming ScotWind leasing rounds and also the INTOG [Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas] sites, offshore wind is going to be a major factor in Shetland,” Watt said.

LEF’s technical manager Callum Mills (left), the company’s managing director Jake Watt and operation manager Ian Hannah.

The company is also in the process of setting up a stainless steel workshop in Lerwick, and is also expanding its presence in Peterhead where a branch has been established.

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Overall, Watt aims to increase local collaboration on major engineering and construction projects, and has set himself a target of working towards increasing the company’s annual turnover by 80 per cent.

With 48 employees on its books, LEF is a significant local employer. Watt said the company’s operation manager Ian Hannah, technical manger Callum Mills and business manager Shaun Cameron are integral parts of LEF’s ambition.

“We have taken on new apprentices this year, and that part of us looking ahead and building and developing our own workforce, and give the young people of Shetland quality employment opportunities,” he said.

He added that he was well aware that LEF’s location at the Greenhead Base could be seen as a limiting factor when it comes to the general awareness of the company’s presence.

“Whilst we are serving the oil and gas industry, we are here for our islands,” he said, “and we may be able to help local people and are open to work on anything.”

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