Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Milestone in our bid to become sector leaders

Wind, it seems, is beginning to be our forte. That sentence will raise the hackles of anyone already involved in the industry who will know only too well that wind is as much a part of the Northern Ireland economy now as linen used to be.

The DONG Energy facility in Belfast Harbour is a case in point and today's milestone marks a another notch in the timeline of our ambitions to become world leaders in the sector.

And in the swings and roundabout nature of any economy, the jobs which it will bring to the region are helping counter the ones lost from the manufacturing sector from the likes of FG Wilson late last year.

Of course, yesterday's announcement of 200 new posts at the generator manufacturer's Springfield plant – now under parent company Caterpillar's name – mean that it's helping to counter its own redundancies, albeit by becoming something of a 'shared services' hub.

The new jobs, in the likes of human resources and finance, won't be suitable for engineers more suited to holding a 17mm spanner rather than a mouse, but will provide a much needed boost at a time when Northern Ireland's economy is on a knife-edge.

It's easy to fall into the argument that 200 back office posts do little to redress the loss of some 700 posts last year, but the globalised nature of firms such as Caterpillar means we're always going to be subject to the changing winds of manufacturing, ones which give with one hand and take with the other.

We don't know the salary figure for the news jobs – a sure indicator of whether they're adding to the productivity of the region or not – but according to the company they're 'high quality' posts which generally means above-average salaries.

And if, as has been intimated, the decision to bring the jobs to Northern Ireland was made after a visit to Caterpillar's headquarters from a travelling posse of ministers and others in the autumn, then that's reason enough to encourage their participation in many more trade missions in the months ahead.

No matter what your opinion on their work, the thought of a gaggle of permanently out-of-the-country politicians is bound to bring a smile and could bring more jobs here.

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