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Michelin decision 'should be wake-up call to ensure we have competitive energy'

Published 03/11/2015

The Michelin factory in Ballymena

The closure of the Michelin tyre factory should be a massive wake-up call to ministers in Northern Ireland, a group representing hundreds of manufacturers said.

Ballymena faces shedding more than 1,700 jobs through the double blow of the loss of cigarette and tyre manufacturing in the town. It has relied on the companies for employment for generations.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of campaigning group Manufacturing NI, said energy costs were the major factor for Michelin.

He said: "They have made that clear for the last five years.

"We have begun to see some turn in that market place but it appears to be too late for Michelin.

"We would hope that the politicians and regulators would really use this as a massive wake-up call to ensure we have competitive energy."

He said energy on the all-Ireland market was hugely profitable for the generators and claimed it served the suppliers but not the customers.

He added costs were 15-20% higher in Northern Ireland than the Republic.

The matter is being reviewed with the aim of redesigning the market, he said.

Northern Ireland has a Utility Regulator which helps set prices and supply company Power NI said it was built around delivering great value for money and excellent customer service.

Mr Kelly represents 550 manufacturing businesses in Northern Ireland and said the sector was growing more generally since the start of the financial crisis.

"We have a very strong engineering industry, particularly around transportation and also around food.

"It is great people making great products and it is the innovation and productivity of the people in the workforce.

"We are really good at building and creating these things."

Nigel Smyth, Northern Ireland director of the CBI, said the closure of Michelin was a major blow to the manufacturing sector and to the Ballymena area in particular.

"The loss of nearly 900 highly-skilled jobs is a severe loss, while there will be further impacts on the supply chain and local economy.

"Michelin has been an excellent employer for over four decades with a dedicated and highly-skilled workforce.

"This is a further wake-up call to the Northern Ireland Executive. More needs to be done to improve the competitiveness and attractiveness of Northern Ireland as a place to invest.

"A key issue remains the need to ease the burden on energy intensive industries."

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