Belfast Telegraph

Fg Wilson announces plans for new £5m assembly line

By Symon Ross

Engineering firm FG Wilson has announced plans to invest more than £5m to develop a major new assembly line at its Larne factory.

The generator set manufacturer said the investment would help it to enhance the site's international competitiveness and efficiency as well as supporting the launch of a range of new products and allowing it to react swiftly to changes in customer demand.

Civil works on the 47,000 sq ft development will be undertaken and completed in July with the new line installation completed by September - creating an assembly line that uses technology employed by leading automotive companies.

FG Wilson managing director, Mark Sweeney, said it was an important investment for the company's Larne site and its Northern Ireland operations.

"This current investment will bring a range of important benefits for the company and will position us to remain competitive in international markets," he said.

"This is not only an important investment for FG Wilson, but for Larne as well, as it will help us to continue to bring employment and investment to the town for many years to come."

FG Wilson, owned by US construction machinery giant Caterpillar, was hit hard by the recession, shedding close to 1,000 agency and full time jobs in 2008 and 2009.

But Dr Sweeney said that the company has seen a steady pick up in demand for its products from both dealers and end customers since mid-2009, which has allowed it to employ 450 agency staff since the start of 2010 and this could rise to 700 by the end of the year, depending on whether the upturn is sustained.

"We probably saw the full impact of the downturn more than some local business would have because of our exposure to international markets, so maybe we are seeing the recovery sooner too and that will turn into a wider trend," said Dr Sweeney.

The FG Wilson chief said planning for the new production line had continued through the difficult period and were coming to fruition at the right time.

"It is very positive both for the facility and the local community," he added. "We've had tough times in 2009, but we had a long term commitment that Northern Ireland would be an important part of our electricity product division plans in Caterpillar."