Massereene to be £161m science park
A former army barracks where two soldiers were shot dead by dissident republicans is to be turned into a science park by an international medical diagnostics firm.
The entrance to the heavily-fortified Massereene base in Antrim was the scene of the Real IRA gun attack that claimed the lives of English sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, in March 2009.
Randox Laboratories Ltd announced a £161 million investment, including the creation of 540 jobs. Researchers will develop treatments for cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Randox managing director Dr Peter FitzGerald said: "Randox innovation underpins our achievements, allows us to diversify, allows us to target fresh markets and fuels our exports and Randox Science Park will be at its core.
"This investment and expansion reinforces our dedication to improving health worldwide and our commitment to the regional economy.
"It is about the future of diagnostic medicine, we are beginning 2015 as we mean to continue."
Almost six years ago, two masked gunmen shot the soldiers at close range after ambushing them as they collected a pizza delivery outside the base just hours before they were due to deploy to Afghanistan.
Two other soldiers and two pizza delivery drivers were seriously injured in the gunfire.
The barracks was the home of 38 Engineering Regiment in 2009 but closed a year later as part of Ministry of Defence (MoD) re-structuring measures.
The site, which also accommodated the Royal Marines in the past, was put on the market with an asking price of £4 million.
The complex stretches to almost 17 hectares and incorporates more than 44,000 sq yards of buildings and warehouse space.
Redevelopment work will cost £29 million and the jobs will be created over the next four years.
Randox is a leading firm in the research, development and manufacture of pioneering medical tests and cutting-edge diagnostic equipment, with customers in clinical, toxicology, veterinary and food safety markets in more than 145 countries.
Randox Science Park will become the company's prime manufacturing site, complementary to its operations in Crumlin, Manchester, County Donegal in the Irish Republic, India and the US.
Randox has a range of more than 2,000 products.
Dr FitzGerald said: "The creation of Randox Science Park is fundamental to Randox meeting the health challenges facing populations across the world.
"We are an innovation-led company, focusing more than 30 years of skills and experience on delivering accurate, rapid and quality diagnostics across a range of clinical disciplines, from stroke and heart disease to cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, respiratory infections and so on.
"We must continue innovating, through our people, through our knowledge and through our technology. Randox Science Park gives us the platform we need to do this."
Stormont first minister Peter Robinson said the announcement will underpin the company's aim of increasing revenues by 60% to almost £150 million by 2018 through more efficient manufacturing and by speeding up the development of new products.
Randox employs almost 800 people in Northern Ireland and that figure will rise to 1,300 employees by 2018.
Mr Robinson said: "Innovation is the key driver for economic growth and once again Randox has proved that it is leading by example."
Government jobs creation agency Invest NI has offered Randox over £4.7 million towards the investment.
The new jobs will generate over £16.2 million a year in salaries to the local economy with average annual pay of £30,000 and will include production, administration, research, sales and marketing posts.
Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said: "Randox's ability to diversify into new markets with new products demonstrates innovation is central to everything they do.
"Their continued success will not just create jobs and boost the economy but potentially save lives."
Dr FitzGerald recently purchased a separate 350 acre site near Bushmills in Co Antrim.
The new owner of land earmarked for a £100 million championship golf course and luxury hotel on the Causeway Coast is considering whether to continue with the plan.