Private contractor defies slump in South-east commercial market to create subsidiary called Whitespace.
Privately owned contractor Haymills is launching a fit-out business, to be named Whitespace.

The west London firm has recruited Mark Kermack, formerly managing director of Pacific Interiors, as managing director.

Haymills chief executive Steve Feery said: "I've been thinking about the fit-out market for a couple of years, because our clients have continually asked us if we'd do fit-out jobs for them."

Feery said: "We're not gunning for retail or hotel work – Whitespace is going to be very much an office fit-out business. I'm not expecting it to be profitable in its first year, but we're looking to break even in about 12 months."

He added: "We want to build up a full design-and-build team, including procurement and project management. By the middle of next year we'd expect to get about a dozen staff, and 25 by 2005." So far, Kermack is the only recruit.

Kermack was managing director of Morgan Sindall's fit-out arm, Morgan Lovell, for three years before joining Pacific Interiors in 1999. He was a director of Laing Management from 1986 to 1996.

Kermack said Whitespace is close to clinching several contracts, including two with Haymills clients in Berkshire and Bedfordshire. Each would be worth a six-figure sum.

He said: "Our target market is from £50,000 to £1m, but we'll go up to £2.5m to £3m." He said the low demand for office space in London and the South-east could work to the firm's advantage. He said: "There's a lot of empty office space, but the landlords need to make that space attractive to tenants in order to let it to them. And lower rents may mean tenants have more money to spend on fit-out."

He added: "Whitespace is totally separate from the construction side at Haymills, but there is a natural synergy between them."

It's always better to start a business when times are hard, because if it works in the short term you know you can make a success of it in the long term."

Kermack is one of two newly appointed managing directors at Haymills. In September, it recruited Julian Brandon, managing director for the south-eastern division of Bluestone, Morgan Sindall's regional contracting arm, to head its construction division.