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Forklift firm Hyster-Yale stays quiet over Brexit and vows to keep working in Europe

By Margaret Canning

Published 21/04/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster on a visit to Hyster-Yale in Portadown to celebrate the company’s 35th anniversary with Alan Little, vice president European manufacturing, Harry Sands, European MD and Jim Downey, plant manager
First Minister Arlene Foster on a visit to Hyster-Yale in Portadown to celebrate the company’s 35th anniversary with Alan Little, vice president European manufacturing, Harry Sands, European MD and Jim Downey, plant manager

Craigavon forklift firm Hyster-Yale has said it will continue making high-end products for European markets regardless of the outcome of the EU debate.

The US-owned company has been manufacturing forklifts in the Co Armagh town since 1981 and now employs 574 people.

It makes frames, front-end masts and guards for forklifts, and assembles the vehicles.

Plant manager Jim Downey said many of its products are sold to Europe, some to the Middle East and Africa, and around 2% to the US - and it produces a special electric forklift for that market.

Clients closer to home include wholesaler Musgrave Group.

And despite exporting across Europe, including to Pepsi-Cola in Poland - and having operations in Italy and Holland - it won't be commenting on the EU debate ahead of the UK's referendum on membership of the EU on June 23.

Mr Downey said: "We do a lot of our business in euros but because we are a US-based company we haven't really taken a position on the EU debate. There would be a lot of uncertainty but we haven't really taken a view, although we do have manufacturing in Italy and Holland.

"All global uncertainty can have an impact so we just keep on trying to build the product to the highest quality."

The company, based in Cleveland, Ohio, is celebrating 35 years in business in Craigavon this week - one of its 12 manufacturing sites around the world.

It started out its operations here by manufacturing internal combustion engine (ICE) trucks.

Mr Downey joined the company in 1988 as a factory worker. A year later, it was bought by Fortune 1000 company NACCO Industries, Inc.

"Within Hyster-Yale, there's a lot of development work provided for everyone, and I took advantage of all those development opportunities. I progressed through all those jobs and was given opportunities to cross-train and work in different functions," he said.

Out of its 574 staff, 33 have been with the firm since it started in Craigavon in 1981.

Mr Downey said the company was hit badly in the recession, when the forklift market globally collapsed, but invested in its people during the tough times. "Rather than let people go, we invested in their future and when the recession was over, we came back a lot more agile."

The Craigavon business became part of NACCO Materials Handling Group in 1994.

And this year, NACCO Materials Handling Group changed its name to Hyster-Yale Group after it was spun off from NACCO Industries.

Revenues at Hyster-Yale Materials Handling Inc in 2015 were $2.6bn (£1.8bn) for 2015, down from $2.8bn (£1.9bn) in 2014.

In an outlook for the lift truck market this year, the company said the overall global market lift trucks was expected to be "roughly stable".

Belfast Telegraph

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