North's manufacturing firms on the up
Manufacturing firms may at last have a reason to celebrate if the latest economic figures – which suggest the manufacturing sector saw both a rise in the number of new orders and people employed last month – are to be believed.
Day-to-day life may continue to be tough for the majority of businesses, according to the latest research from Ulster Bank Northern Ireland, but some manufacturing companies appear to have found an export route out of the tunnel.
Richard Ramsey, the bank’s chief economist in the North, says the latest survey of businesses in Northern Ireland shows employment has risen in local manufacturing firms for the last three months in a row.
Last month, there was also a welcome rise in new manufacturing orders – the fastest rate of growth in 13 months.
Although keen to point out the positives, he notes also that manufacturing output and employment are nowhere near where it was before the economic downturn.
One man who definitely wants a slice of the North’s manufacturing success in the not too distant future is Conor Monaghan.
He may only have been managing director of one of the North’s newest manufacturing firms for less than four weeks, but Monaghan is already making big plans.
He wants Coalisland-based Blackrock Manufacturing, launched just last month, to rival the success of some of its closest neighbours in Tyrone.
The scale of that ambition becomes clear when you realise that Blackrock is a stone’s throw from some of the North’s most successful manufacturing companies.
Nearby is Powerscreen, the US-owned earth- moving and screening equipment giant, while McCloskey International, another leading crushing and recycling equipment manufacturer, is also close by.
A large number of Tyrone companies currently export equipment used in the quarrying, mining and construction industries to customers across the globe.
Monaghan believes Blackrock Manufacturing has an opportunity to tap into this market by providing supply parts and track frames to local manufacturers many of whom currently source them from China and Eastern Europe.
The company also plans to develop its own line of construction attachments, such as excavator buckets and hitches, to sell directly to dealers.
It intends initially to employ 38 people but Monaghan hopes the new venture can achieve what he has described as “significant export sales” over the next few years and create more jobs.
“We’re a brand new business but we are very confident and we know what we’re doing. The business has been set up by Pat O’Neill, who founded Powerscreen in 1965, and I have also worked in engineering since I left school, so we’re steeped in it. We know the markets we want to sell into are resilient so I am very excited about it all.”
Dungannon company Edge Innovate has also announced plans for a £3.4 million expansion that could create an additional 84 jobs for Tyrone.
The company designs, manufactures and supplies a range of equipment used primarily used in the recycling, materials handling and quarrying industries.
Darragh Cullen, the firm’s managing director, says initial sales have been encouraging. He is confident there is a strong demand for its specific range of equipment which it intends to sell in export markets.
Cullen and Monaghan appear to be in good company when it comes to translating enthusiasm into results by taking a risk, investing money and creating new jobs – as ably demonstrated by another Coalisland firm, DMAC Engineering.
The fabrication and metal steel-forming engineering company celebrates 20 years in business this year and has just announced a privately funded £2 million investment project to build another local factory.