Belfast Telegraph

Expansion plan brings new jobs hopes at Almac

By Clare Weir

There is more good news for investment in Northern Ireland after a Co Armagh pharmaceutical company announced a £6.5m project which could create up to 60 new jobs over the next three years.

Drugs firm Almac has built a new 13,400 sq ft facility, which includes two new analytical laboratories and will effectively double the firm's current pharmaceutical development capacity.

Recruitment of experienced skilled staff for the new roles has already started.

David Downey, vice president of commercial operations at Almac, said that salaries would be "significant".

But he added that recent negative headlines had prompted some major clients to ask whether Northern Ireland is a safe place to do business.

The Almac Group, founded by the late Sir Allen McClay, provides services to more than 600 companies, including all the world leaders in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors.

The firm employs over 3,300 people and is headquartered in Craigavon, while US operations are based in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California.

The new facility will focus on the development of tablet and capsule formulations for new drugs which are in the early stages of development and which have not yet reached the market.

The work at the new site will help speed up pharmaceutical development from product conception and initial testing to commercial production, which will address the growing needs of existing and new clients.

Mr Downey said that ongoing links with schools and colleges in Northern Ireland would help the firm pinpoint the best people for the roles.

"We already have programmes out there with colleges and we do look at people coming from those degrees and courses and initiatives which suit our long term objectives," he said.

"We also have a history of pulling in people from India, Poland and China and have people from those countries already working for us at our existing facilities. We would be looking at anyone from college graduates to people with already five to 10 years' experience in the field so the salaries could be significant.

"The new facility, where we first began running projects two weeks ago, is actually almost a mirror image of a facility we opened in 2006, which now employs 100 people, so we think that 50-60 jobs in the first three years is a reasonable estimate."

Mr Downey added: "We are a Northern Ireland company and this is where we seek to expand and grow our business and it is a shame what is going on elsewhere in the country.

"Sadly it is something we do have to address with our non-Northern Ireland clients, who would make up the vast majority of our customers, asking us are we okay and is Northern Ireland a safe place to travel to."