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Deals help aerospace firm soar as it creates 80 jobs in Northern Ireland


Flying high: Northern Ireland aerospace is just one of the sectors expected to benefit from the new centre

Flying high: Northern Ireland aerospace is just one of the sectors expected to benefit from the new centre

Flying high: Northern Ireland aerospace is just one of the sectors expected to benefit from the new centre

An international aerospace manufacturer will create 80 new engineering jobs in Northern Ireland over the next three years.

RLC, which has had a base here since 1959, is expanding its operation after landing new 20-year contracts to supply the industry.

The aircraft engine components manufacturer employs 258 people at the former US Airforce base at Langford Lodge in Crumlin.

The jobs will have an average salary of £34,000 and will be based at the firm's new research and development factory at Global Point in Newtownabbey.

Customers of the company include Airbus, Bombardier and BAE Systems.

RLC will be the anchor tenant at the 150-acre site, which has been developed by Invest NI. RLC expects the factory to be finished by the end of the year and is beginning the recruitment process.

Invest NI provided £6.5m in support to RLC and, now that the anchor tenant is in place, said it expects other firms to move into remaining 85 acres at the site.

RLC director Sarah Holt said the firm will be making a long-term investment at Global Point. "We have recently secured high-technology, long-term projects with leading global aerospace companies, which offer significant opportunities for RLC," Ms Holt said.

"To deliver on these contracts we need to invest in a major R&D project and enhance our manufacturing capability. Having considered our options we have decided that, taking into account the availability of skills and the support from Invest NI, Northern Ireland offers an excellent and cost-effective location from which to service these contracts."

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said: "The global aerospace sector is a dynamic one which will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. RLC's investment secures its presence in Northern Ireland, and demonstrates to the international aerospace community that this region represents a sound location for providing advanced manufacturing and engineering solutions."

The trade body for the Northern Ireland aerospace industry, ADS NI, said the sector could double turnover from £1bn to £2bn and increase employment from 8,000 people to 12,000 over the next decade.

Leslie Orr, ADS NI manager, said: "We very much welcome the RLC announcement to expand in Northern Ireland. This is exactly in line with our strategy to grow the already very strong aerospace sector in Northern Ireland.

"The aerospace industry brings high-technology jobs, high-value exports and is a key sector to help rebalance our economy."

Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said there was potential to grow this sector, thanks to the high standard of engineering skills in Northern Ireland.

He said work was being done to further the sector in colleges and universities, including through apprenticeships with the support of Employment Minister Stephen Farry. Mr Hamilton added: "Some of the higher level degrees that have been introduced in the aerospace sector specifically I think are great foundation stones upon which to build this sector. So while in maybe other sectors I would have more challenges with the skills throughput, I don't have them in this area and that's obviously something to build upon."