THE UK'S largest manufacturer of natural slate, Welsh Slate, has appointed a new managing director.

Mark Hodgkinson takes over the reins of the Bethesda-based company after spending 11 years as the firm's operations director.

Prior to that position, the 51-year-old was Welsh Slate's business development manager.

However, Mark's expertise with slate goes back further than that, to when, as an independent consultant, he worked extensively with the company in redefining manufacturing processes, material planning and improving productivity.

A keen sportsman, Mark, 51, also counts consultancy roles with foundries, clay quarrying and processing companies, and construction companies among his experience.

Now he is set to lead Welsh Slate, part of the Lagan Group, through a testing period for the UK construction sector, with skills and materials shortages among the challenges ahead.

However, Welsh Slate's extensive variety of uses, from roofing and cladding, through flooring, paving and walling, to decorative aggregates and worktop counters, means there are also many opportunities ahead.

Based at the company's main Penrhyn Quarry, Mark said: "Welsh Slate is fortunate in that it is a much sought after material for heritage and specified projects.

"It is important for our customers that we continue to provide sustainable reserves of material, innovative use of materials, and value for money and I am looking forward to driving that on behalf of the company.

"We have an incredibly passionate and resilient team, who while honouring it, have not been scared to develop other skill sets to remain competitive, and I am proud to be a part of that team.

"We are the custodians of what many people, not just us, will tell you is the best slate in the world."