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100 jobs on way as Caterpillar rolls out £7m deal

BY CLARE WEIR

A Northern Ireland manufacturing powerhouse is battling back from the brink with a new investment worth £7m, creating 100 jobs.

In September 2012, Caterpillar – which bought over FG Wilson in 1999 – cut more than 700 jobs as it moved some manufacturing to China.

Earlier this year there was a glimmer of hope as 200 jobs were created in west Belfast in a support office for Caterpillar's global operations.

Now the company will be adding a new production line making the yellow-coloured Cat machines for which the company is most famous.

The vehicles, which will be exported worldwide, are typically used by customers around the world for scrap sorting and handling, and forestry use.

Currently the firm only makes generators across its plants at Larne, Belfast, Springvale and Monkstown.

Invest Northern Ireland offered Caterpillar more than £1m to secure the project, and the Department for Employment and Learning offered £220,000 through its Assured Skills Programme.

The announcement was made by the First and deputy First Ministers after meeting senior management at Caterpillar's headquarters in Peoria, Illinois.

Bryan Gray, chief executive at the Manufacturing NI trade body, said that the news was a vote of confidence in the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland.

"This is good news for workers in Northern Ireland after the hundreds of job losses in 2012," he said.

"Manufacturing jobs are more sustainable than jobs in the services industry and the fact that Northern Ireland has been chosen to manufacture the machines for which Caterpillar is most famous says a lot about the long-term prospects for the sector here and the confidence which is being placed in the workers."

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs Jnr said that the announcement was good news for Larne, which has suffered with job losses over recent years.

"I am heartened by signs of increasing economic activity by both large and small firms in the Larne area," he said. "These home-grown companies are essential for the future of our economy alongside traditional big employers such as Caterpillar."

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