Belfast Telegraph

Expansion plans take off for firm as it hopes to profit from growing aircraft market

By Joanne Sweeney

Eighty jobs are being created by a Co Londonderry engineering firm as it aims to double its turnover over the next three years by supplying parts to the Middle East.

The new jobs come as part of a £4.1m investment by the Hutchinson Group, which specialises in laser cut and metal fabrication components.

It aims to take advantage of the global demand for new planes from the aerospace industry.

The family-run Kilrea firm has already added half of the new posts this year, and increased its workforce to 140 from early 2015. The rest of the new jobs will follow over the next three years.

It received £500,000 from Invest NI towards its latest expansion. Earlier this year, the firm invested more than £3m into expanding its business, as well as acquiring two new cutting lasers.

That investment includes extending its Kilrea manufacturing site, which now spans 60,000 sq ft.

Two years ago, it established its aerospace sister firm, AeroTech, based in Antrim, which has 20 employees.

Managing director Mark Hutchinson has an optimistic attitude to his business's potential for growth, as Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell announced the jobs news at the Kilrea plant yesterday. Opening the company's new site in Kilrea, Mr Hutchinson said the investment was "another building block" in the firm's growth.

"We have aligned ourselves with some of Northern Ireland's best known exporting companies, the large original engineering manufacturers, and we feel that with their continued growth in the export market, we can grow on the back of it," he said.

"This new capital investment of over £3.2m is another building block in the company's growth, and with over 40 years' experience working with clients who demand quality and precision engineered components, it was imperative that we undertook this expansion," he added.

The new jobs are being spread right throughout the company, filling advanced engineering roles, business development and sales, as well as operatives. While the firm also sees growth potential in the road transport, materials handling and quarry industries, it believes that global demands for new aircraft will mainly fuel its future growth.

Mr Hutchinson, who is "100% confident" that Bombardier will receive accreditation for its CSeries aircraft, added: "The demand for aircraft is huge and it's right across the globe. We are like other family-run engineering firms who hope to capitalise on Bombardier's success."

Announcing the new jobs, Mr Bell said the new high-value jobs would generate £1.85m annually in additional salaries in the Causeway Coast and Glens area.

"This latest investment in leading edge technology will significantly enhance the firm's engineering capabilities and enable it to secure new business in its target markets.

"The engineering sector accounts for a large proportion of manufactured exports from Northern Ireland. Hutchinson's investment sends a clear signal to the advanced engineering sector across Great Britain and internationally that Northern Ireland has the skills and expertise to be a market leader," he said.

Belfast Telegraph