Household cleaning products firm McBride has announced plans to shut its manufacturing facility in Barrow this summer with a potential loss of 106 jobs.

But almost two decades ago the story was very different.

The company had just completed a major investment in 2000 at the Park Road site – with the promise of more to come.

As reported by in-Cumbria sister title, The Mail on June 19, McBride had just opened a new £9 million high-tech production plant.

And it also announced plans to invest a further £4m in two new tablet-making lines – one for clothes washing tablets and the other for dish-washer tablets.

“The new Project 21 extension, which is creating 25 jobs, was opened by Robert McBride Group at its Park Road factory,” the article read.

“It is expected to double production of own-label washing powder and tablets made for leading superstores in Britain, in what is the biggest operation of its kind in Europe.

The article continued: “The Government gave a £600,000 Regional Selective Assistance grant towards the extension, which has machinery which can switch quickly from making one type of washing powder or tablet to another.

“It also had self-cleaning features and highly advanced controls.

“Barrow Council and Cumbria County Council also gave grants towards anew access road to the site.”

McBride’s then chief executive hailed the international significance of the development, adding: “This powder plant is of a standard and quality of engineering proficiency that will stand comparison with any plant in Europe, the Far East or North America.”

Barrow had been chosen for the investment ahead of a rival plant in France.

The importance was not lost on the Barrow and Furness MP at the time, John Hutton, who unveiled a plaque to mark the opening of the new plant.

“This is a good day for the company, a good day for the workforce and a good day for the local economy,” he said.

In 2000, the McBride site at Barrow employed 460 people directly and another 40 on contract.

Fast forward almost 20 years and the site’s 106 members of staff face a bleak future.

The Barrow factory had seen clutches of jobs losses over recent years with McBride top brass keeping a close eye on overheard costs in a challenging and changing consumer market.

But McBride bosses made the shock announcement – revealed exclusively by in-Cumbria – in November that it was looking to shut up shop entirely.

It blamed the move on a fall in demand for the laundry powders manufactured at the site, with the detergent market shifting toward liquids.

That change in consumer habits had forced the company to examine its manufacturing footprint and “realign this in order to remain competitive”.

“We will now commence a process of collective consultation with employee representatives where the local management team, will discuss the proposal in detail, explore any alternative scenarios, and set out the support, which would be available to any potentially affected colleagues,” McBride said in a statement.

Further details of the closure are set to be announced.

But the anniversary of around £13m of investment in a site which looks soon to lie empty, will bring bitter sweet memories for McBride’s long-serving staff who remember better times.