A supplier to Wrightbus with directors including the bus giant's former owner Jeff Wright has gone bust with the loss of 30 jobs, Business Telegraph can reveal.
Advance Engineering in Ballymena, which describes itself as a "social enterprise factory", appointed administrators yesterday.
Advance Engineering is based at Pennybridge Industrial Estate and is a subsidiary of Green Pastures Church - the evangelical church led by Mr Wright.
Mr Wright is the pastor of Green Pastures Church - and all the other company directors have also been pastors. The church had received £15m in donations from Wrightbus in the six years before it went into administration with the loss of 1,400 jobs in September.
According to a report last November by administrators of parent company Wrights Group, Advance Engineering was owed £118,700 at the time of the collapse.
In a statement to Business Telegraph yesterday, the Advance Engineering board said the firm had faced an "extended period of time where the business had been hit with many challenges, including its largest customer going into administration, a 50% reduction in demand and finally the Covid-19 pandemic".
"This has resulted in the business being left with no other option than to enter an administration process."
The board said it had appointed Brian Hegarty of HannawayCA Business Recovery as administrator of the company.
And its statement said that it had tried to hand the business on as a going concern but that the attempt had failed. However, the members said they were hopeful for the future.
"The board are hopeful that the administration process may still lead to a positive outcome which would secure jobs in the future."
The board members of Advance Engineering said the company had been set up to support two charitable organisations which had been involved in "groundroots" community projects for almost 15 years. One of those projects is Green Pastures Church.
The statement said the support "will be gravely missed".
"Offering employment and giving opportunities to those who otherwise may not have found employment easily was at the heart of this social enterprise company and saw many trained and released into new levels of employment. This is a legacy Advance Engineering Group Ltd will leave in the people it supported.
"It is a disappointing and difficult time for all involved in Advance Engineering Group Ltd, most especially for the 31 employees and everything will be done to ensure their care and support at this time."
The company had carried out work including laser cutting and upholstery as well as acoustic and heat insulation work.
It also produced items such as single- and double-deck bus rear frames, seat-box assemblies and high-volume corner assemblies.
However, the company announced in a Facebook post on March 23 that it would be closing temporarily due to Covid-19 and the difficulties involved in maintaining social distancing on the factory floor. But a later update explains that staff had come in voluntarily while on furlough to sew scrubs for NHS use.
Board member Pastor Trevor Lyle resigned as a director in May this year, and a new director, Pastor Jason Kennedy, was appointed on the same day. The other directors are Pastor Jeff Wright, Pastor Jacqueline McGladdery and Pastor Kezia Kernohan. Another director, Pastor Mark Donley, resigned two years ago.
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley said he was "very disappointed" to hear of the company's administraiton.
"I understand the council will provide a redundancy and recruitment service to help those affected.
"I will be urging all local employers to see what assistance can be given," he said.
The jobs lost at Advance Engineering are another setback for the economy in Ballymena almost a year after the collapse of Wrightbus.
Around 1,400 jobs were lost at the company following the administration.
However, a few months later the business was bought over by new owner, the industrialist Jo Bamford, who has revived the business and set out to increase its capacity to build hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.
That business now employs around 575 people. In May, the business announced that 35 permanent staff were being made redundant, while up to 90 agency workers would also be gradually let go. The new owner has previously said that he hopes to grow the workforce to 1,000 by the end of 2021.