Expansion plan could create 100 new jobs by the end of the year.

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A BARNSTAPLE business has announced plans to create 100 new jobs by the end of the year.

Applegate Directory Ltd said it expects to double the size of its workforce as part of an ambitious expansion set to see the firm become one of the biggest independently-owned employers in North Devon.

The on-line marketing firm celebrated the recruitment of its 100th employee with a £1,000 donation to the North Devon Chemotherapy Appeal this week, but ambitious plans to expand further are already well advanced.

The company, which began life around a kitchen table at a Barnstaple home in 1997, has taken on the lease for a vacant stationery warehouse next door to its existing offices on the Pottington Industrial Estate.

The firm moved to the estate from town centre offices eight years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Managing director David Garth told the Gazette that expansion would create new sales and software development roles for local people.

“This is a very exciting time for the company,” he said. “The extension will double the size of the existing office space and there are plans to increase the number of staff to 200 by the end of the year.”

Applegate helps firms in the manufacturing and energy sectors to find buyers for their products. It markets around nine million items on its web-based ‘interactive warehouse’.

The website pre-dates Google, meaning product searches often point customers straight to the firm’s business-to-business directory.

“During the last 12 months we have been expanding much more rapidly; business is up 30 per cent year-on-year,” said Mr Garth.

“We have customers all over the world, with a growing client base in Germany and China.

“After the recession, people are making things again, particularly the small-to-medium sized businesses that make up the majority of our client base.

“The website is now receiving 2.8million page impressions a month and the directory is set to list half a million companies in the next couple of weeks.”

News of the expansion is being seen as a windfall for North Devon, which saw 1,580 people claim Jobseeker’s Allowance in January, a seven per cent year-on-year rise.

“Applegate is a good place to develop a career rather than just a job,” added Mr Garth.

“We find there are plenty of enthusiastic and committed people in North Devon who want the chance to develop software skills or move into progressively larger sales positions.”

Mayor of Barnstaple Ian Roome said the success of the business brought success to Barnstaple.

He said: “This is a fantastic success story for Barnstaple. This business is all about putting businesses around the world in contact with each other and it’s nice to think that a little town like Barnstaple is playing that role.”

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