A major investment by an American aircraft designer will create 64 jobs over the next three years and safeguard 298 others in the North.
B/E Aerospace, which manufactures cabin interior products for most of the world’s leading airlines, is to invest €27m in its Kilkeel plant in Northern Ireland.
It will become the company’s only production unit for its complete range of aircraft seats.
Northern Ireland Industrial Development Board has offered the company €6.4m of selective financial assistance towards the cost of the investment.
Michael Baughan, vice president and general manager of the Florida-based aerospace group, said his company had decided to concentrate its seat manufacturing operation at Kilkeel as a result of a major cost reduction programme initiated in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks in the US.
‘‘Our decision to develop Kilkeel as our seat manufacturing centre was influenced by the lower operating costs here, the plant’s strong relationship with many of the world’s leading airlines and the ‘can-do, will-do’ attitude of its managers and employees,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve been impressed by the pride which employees here at Kilkeel have in their work, their attention to detail, their adaptability and the overall flexibility which is a feature of this plant’s performance.
‘‘The investment will enable Kilkeel to play a pivotal role in helping the group grow its business within the global airline industry.’’
Mr Baughan said that as a result of the consolidation programme announced in October 2001 and the economic recovery in the United States and other markets, his company expected to experience significant growth later in the year.
The investment was welcomed by the Northern Ireland economy minister, Sir Reg Empey, coming on the back of today’s announcement by Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff that it is to shed 144 jobs because of a lack of orders.
The Ulster Unionist minister described B/E Aerospace’s investment as a ‘‘further significant boost’’ for one of Northern Ireland’s main provincial towns.
‘‘This very substantial investment programme in plant, equipment and people will see Kilkeel become a world-class centre of manufacturing excellence in the entire range of aircraft seats which B/E Aerospace supplies to the global airline industry,’’ he said.
‘‘It is, furthermore, a massive endorsement of Northern Ireland as an international industrial location by one of the most respected groups in the aerospace business.
‘‘The presence of acknowledged world-leading companies supports our efforts to accelerate economic growth and to expand employment opportunities by attracting further investment from aerospace and other technology-driven industries.’’