Multiyork’s Thetford departure signals the end of an era

The Multiyork offices in Thetford.
Picture: Sonya Duncan

The Multiyork offices in Thetford. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

As well as making for a miserable Christmas for its staff, the closure of Multiyork is the end of a 25-year story for the company in Thetford.

Growing up in the town, the firm was a name that you knew.

Friends' parents worked at Thermos, Rexam, Trox, Baxter Healthcare, one of the many haulage firms... and Multiyork.

My schoolmates' parents were the second - or even third - generation which helped transform the town in the post-war years, with its industrial estates the catalyst.

When London overspill brought a population explosion in the 1950s and 60s, it was to fill vacancies on the shiny new estates. Families who moved were sold a dream of brand-new homes and plentiful jobs, away from the overcrowding and smog of the capital. The factories and warehouses were also the driver for the next wave of immigration. Portuguese and Polish immigrants came in the 2000s, followed later by others from beyond the Carpathians.

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Like the 'smoggies' - as the London migrants were uncharitably known - the Eastern Europeans earned respect and a place in the community through hard work and stoicism on those industrial estates. But the world has moved on.

Manufacture has itself migrated, companies are downsizing and relatively provincial towns like Thetford now face the challenge of finding long-term, sustainable industries that will come to the town. White collar jobs in science and technology are an obvious target. But efforts to kickstart this jobs revolution have been stalling for 30 years.

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The proposed Thetford Enterprise Park would provide 2,500 jobs and millions in investment, its supporters claim.It is yet to be realised due to a lack of power to the site and, some would say, a lack of joined-up thinking on the part of local government and business. But while they dither, it is the town that suffers. Thetford still has the workforce and facilities to support manufacturing jobs, but there will be inevitable decline in these

New jobs, with accompanying better wages and prestige, must arrive to create the next chapter in Thetford's history, and to support the people who are left high and dry by the departure of traditional industry.

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