348 new jobs are proof science giant Almac has winning formula
A home-grown pharmaceutical company that is punching above its weight on the global stage has announced almost 350 new and well-paid jobs in a £54m investment.
On the same day thousands of A-Level students got their results, the Craigavon company said its expansion was being driven by demand for its world-leading cancer diagnostics and research products and the hard work of its staff.
With many students being forced to leave Northern Ireland to pursue their chosen science and business careers in the past, the region is now home to hi-tech firms holding their own across the globe, including medical test kit firm Randox and defibrillator maker Heartsine.
Alan Armstrong, chairman and chief executive of the Almac Group, said close links to Queen's University, talented staff and a family ethos were all helping the company make its mark in the global battle against cancer.
Almac Pharma Services, which provides development and manufacturing services to the world's leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies, will recruit 141 new staff over the next five years.
Another branch of the group, Almac Clinical Services – which provides clinical packaging, labelling, logistics and clinical management services to the pharmaceutical industry – will create 181 jobs over the same period. A further 26 posts will also be created. The new jobs will generate salaries of more than £9.4m a year – averaging almost £28,000 – when the projects are fully implemented.
Invest Northern Ireland has offered Almac £5.5m of support towards its investment, with the agency now having supported more than 4,000 jobs since January in a range of different sectors.
"I would say that global demand for our services has driven this expansion and we are aiming for additional offerings in small intravenous vials or ampoules for the treatment of cancer," said Mr Armstrong.
"We have a strong relationship with Queen's University, which has helped drive our drug discovery and diagnostic expertise and we would put a lot of emphasis on that link.
"There will be several levels of job available right across the spectrum – from logistics and engineering to management and finance – and we would say there will be a 50/50 split between graduate and non-graduate roles with recruitment due to start soon.
"We've managed to do well globally because of the hard work of our staff, the quality and reliability of our products and our push to develop new services.
"This is a business which had humble beginnings and we try to stick to that ethos, we can go large and still be humble, we try to look after our clients, we lift them from Belfast International Airport ourselves and we leave them back to the airport ourselves."
Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, of which Almac is a member, said the announcement was a sign that a recovery for the economy is well under way. "The majority of the recent job creations have been the result of inward investment which plays a key role in the economy – creating jobs, attracting overseas investment, developing new skills and providing opportunities for local firms," she said.
"But whilst inward investment is crucial to growing the economy of a region, indigenous firms such as Almac who export are also of critical importance. The worrying fact is that we are lagging well behind our counterparts in other regions with regards to this.
"The chamber believes that growing the province's export base is fundamental to the future prospects of the local economy."
Top 10 jobs announcements of 2014
1. Concentrix, business services, Belfast: 1,043
2. Moy Park, chicken processor, Dungannon, Craigavon & Ballymena: 628
3. EY, accountancy, Belfast: 486
4. First Derivatives, trading software, Newry: 484
5. Capita, IT services, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim: 400
6. Almac, pharmaceutical services, Craigavon: 348
7. Convergys, customer services, Londonderry: 333
8. Alexander Mann, business services, Belfast: 250
9. Schrader, electronics, Carrickfergus: 241
10. SSE Airtricity, home energy, Belfast: 143