Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

We need to make best of what we've still got

The ups and downs of the Northern Ireland manufacturing industry continue. On the one hand, the workers of FG Wilson are still coming to terms with news that hundreds of their ilk are to be made redundant.

On the other, one of our greatest manufacturing success stories, Wrightbus, has managed to get an order for another 600 buses confirmed with Transport for London (TfL).

Not that you would know unless you signed up for TfL's press releases because it was only there and, oddly enough, from the DUP's press office, that news of the order could be confirmed.

Wrightbus weren't singing it from the rooftops, but the Ballymena company is certainly ploughing its own furrow in an increasingly difficult operating environment.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnston, a man who we only need the tiniest excuse to mention in these pages, has been hugely keen on the energy efficient Routemaster replacement from the start and it'll be an honour to see the bright red buses ferry millions of passengers around the streets of London.

Add in the recent sales of buses to Singapore in the flatpack format and we surely have the company which is producing the best business news stories, from both a economic impact and a colour perspective, in Northern Ireland

A shame then that it seems to be hiding its light under a bushel when it comes to getting the good news out there, particularly when there's such bad news emanating - albeit in a very professional way - from their manufacturing neighbours down the road in Larne.

The thoughts that are running around the heads of the FG Wilson workers threatened with redundancy in the next few months don't bear thinking about, but at least there is some hope of learning a new trade for those affected.

Although it's never been tapped by Northern Ireland before, lets hope the Executive manages to prize the grant money which is on offer from the European Union.

If ever there was a time to call in a few favours it is now, particularly as last week's redundancy announcement will affect so many people both directly and indirectly connected to FG Wilson.

And before we get too down on owners Caterpillar, we need to remember that the company will still be one of the biggest employers here and that means we should be doubling our efforts to persuade them that Northern Ireland remains the number one choice for a manufacturing base.

At this stage, there's no point in crying over spilt milk, rather we should be making the best of what we have left.

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