Posted on Monday 28 October 2013 by Ulster Business

Lowden 2

David McCurley, Senior Investment Manager, WhiteRock Capital Partners and George Lowden, owner of Lowden Guitars.

A Co Down company which makes hand-crafted acoustic guitars for export across the world has secured a significant loan from the Growth Loan Fund to finance its expansion plans.

Lowden Guitars, a Downpatrick-based firm that produces high-quality instruments used by some of the world's most famous artists, including Eric Clapton, Foy Vance and Paul Brady, plans to use the money to double its production space and invest in new specialist manufacturing equipment.

Finance for the £50m Growth Loan Fund – which provides mezzanine finance to established Northern Ireland SMEs seeking to access growth finance – has been provided by Invest Northern Ireland and private investor, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).

The deal will support the creation of three new jobs, as well as assisting with Lowden Guitar's working capital requirements. Founded by George Lowden in 1974, the firm now employs 17 highly skilled workers in a facility that produces hand-crafted products that are in demand in Europe, North America and the Far East.

George Lowden, owner of Lowden Guitars, welcomed the deal, saying: "When I started out, I had no formal training in the manufacture of guitars. In a way, that gave me the confidence to take some risks, innovate and eventually produce an instrument that has a completely unique voicing.

"There are perhaps half a dozen companies in the world that can produce guitars of this quality. We handcraft a product that offers a totally unique tone. The support of WhiteRock Capital Partners has been crucial in helping us to expand and reach an even wider audience.

"There is significant room for growth in all of our markets from the Far East, through to Europe and America. Scaling up our output by approximately 50 per cent over the next three years is an important part of delivering that. The majority of our processes are not automated and this financing has helped us to bring on board equipment that complements the traditional skills of our staff."

To date the Growth Loan Fund has approved loans of over £12m to 50 indigenous SMEs across Northern Ireland.

David McCurley, Senior Investment Manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners LLP, said: "Lowden Guitars is an excellent example of the kind of firm that the Growth Loan Fund is looking to support, with its strategic plan for growth and focus on innovation and export.

"This is fundamentally a story about local talent – a company from Northern Ireland supporting skilled employment and creating a product that is recognised and respected around the world. We're proud to be working with the business to enhance its international standing.

"It demonstrates once again that with the right approach, local SMEs can target international market niches and gain recognition."

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