Coca-Cola announced tonight it had selected a Northern Ireland site for a new £53m (€78m) an all-island production plant.
The decision to build the new facility at Lisburn, Co Antrim is good news for the 500 workers the company currently employs in nearby Lambeg.
But it could mean the loss of up to 300 of the 800 workers employed in the Republic at plants in Naas Road, Dublin and Greenore.
Lisburn saw off stiff competition from 60 potential sites, the bulk in the Republic.
Announcing the decision, Coca-Cola Bottlers managing director Alfie Lydon said: “Our decision to invest over £53m in this new single manufacturing site will secure Coca-Cola Bottlers marketing, sales and manufacturing operations on the island of Ireland.
“It will also give us the essential new capacity to respond more rapidly to changing consumer needs in a highly competitive trading environment.”
What had been announced to staff today was a major re-organisation of bottle making, production and warehouse operations to the single site, he said.
“To make such a large , long-term investment in our business, we required a site with the highest quality water in sufficient volumes as close as possible to one of our existing facilities and with a good road infrastructure.
“Having evaluated over 60 potential sites, we have now identified the one that best meets our criteria, said Mr Lydon.
He said existing facilities would continue to operate for approximately 18 months while the new facility was built.
Once the move was completed the three existing sites – Dublin, Greenore and Lambeg – would close.
Such a significant transformation of the business would present new challenges to all workers for Coca-Cola Bottlers, he said, with “the greatest impact among production and warehouse staff at Naas Road and Greenore where job losses will occur.”
Mr Lydon added: “There are 290 staff currently employed in production , warehousing and bottle manufacture at these locations. We are entering a period of consultation with our employees and their representatives about the implications of this decision.”
He pledged affected employees would be treated in a “fair and reasonable manner”.
Coca-Cola, who has had a presence in Ireland for 70 years, stressed the announcement would not affect its depots in Galway, Killarney, Tipperary , Cork and Omagh.
Democratic Unionist Party Lagan Valley MLA Jeffrey Donaldson, currently fighting to be retained as the areas MP, welcomed the news.
“This is a real coup for Lisburn which faced intense competition from Dublin for the Coca-Cola plant,” he said.
Mr Donaldson said it was exciting news for the city that in addition to the retention of the current workforce, there was new every likelihood that the workforce would be expanded.
Having received the go-ahead for the new National Stadium in the constituency, he said the aim was to secure the John Lewis store which the chain is seeking to build – creating 900 jobs – despite strong competition from Dublin and opposition from Belfast traders.