Belfast Telegraph

Aerospace sector boss eyes link-up with Ulster firms

By Clare Weir

The locally-born boss of one of the world's biggest aerospace firms has said that he is looking forward to doing business with Northern Ireland.

Neil McManus - who was born in Ballymoney and grew up in Glengormley - is vice president and managing director of Spirit AeroSystems (Europe) Limited, a major player in the industry, working with and alongside British Aerospace, Boeing, Airbus and Rolls-Royce.

Spirit recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sigma - which represents six aerospace companies located in Northern Ireland - to develop supply chain links here.

Mr McManus was keynote speaker at the 21st Century Supply Chains (SC21) event at the Titanic building on Wednesday and gave details of the new Aerospace Growth Partnership, aimed at keeping the UK number one in Europe and number two in the world in terms of aerospace manufacturing.

The SC21 scheme is part of a business excellence programme organised by ADS, the body for aerospace, defence and security firms, with seven Northern Ireland companies picking up silver and bronze awards at the event.

Mr McManus said that while there are no immediate plans for Spirit to have a physical presence in Northern Ireland, he was looking forward to working with companies here.

"There are no plans to open a base in Northern Ireland but we are expecting massive growth and will keep our options open," he said.

"We don't need to have a factory, we are looking at extending our supply chain and buying products and components from Northern Ireland firms.

"The aerospace industry in Northern Ireland is well established, firms here are in close proximity by air and sea to our bases at Prestwick and Preston, the workforce is skilled, there is a lot of collaboration in the industry, all the ingredients are there and the potential is massive."

David Raymond, managing director of Sigma, said that there are cash-rich countries and companies ready to invest in replacing ageing aircraft fleets and Northern Ireland firms can reap the benefits.

"Spirit have been on a number of site visits and have been impressed by the capacity, the capability, the facilities, the enthusiasm and the determination of our businesses," he said.

"We are now looking at packages of work over the next three years and we are now in a position to see our companies begin to become an integral part of Spirit's supply chain."

Damian McArdle, general manager at JW Kane Precision Engineering, in Portadown, - only the second Northern Ireland firm to pick up an SC21 silver award - said that the scheme was "like the X Factor" for supply chain firms.

And Jim Knowles from Denroy Plastics, which celebrates 40 years in business this year, said that morale has soared since the firm embarked on the SC21 scheme.

"We're applying for grants, we're doing research into new products and we are planning to branch out," he said. "We're aiming for a silver award next year."

Prize winners

Seven Northern Ireland companies received SC21 Awards.


JW Kane Precision Engineering, Portadown


Dontaur Engineering, Ballymena

DHL Global Forwarding (UK), Antrim

Vulcanium Metals International, Newtownards

New Breed Logistics, Belfast

Denroy Plastics, Bangor

All Metal Services, Belfast