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Glen Dimplex founder's rise from sole trader to Forbes rich list

NORTHERN Ireland has become famous for making planes, buses and even defibrillators but it's also home to the world's largest manufacturer of electrical heating products.

Glen Dimplex is also the biggest manufacturer of heat pumps in Europe.

It all started almost 40 years ago to the day, when Martin Naughton started out "with one little electrical heater in Newry".

Now Mr Naughton is sitting at number 736 in the Forbes Rich List, laughing at the fact that his original business plan – to make £1m in sales and employ 100 people over a three-year period – has"failed miserably".

Now the company employs 10,000 people globally – 500 in Northern Ireland – and makes a billion in sales every year.

"We started with one little electrical heater in Newry 40 years ago and we are still here and we will be here for the next 40 years because of the investment in our products," he said.

"We recognised from the start that we couldn't just stay in the UK and Ireland markets. We have always looked to the products of the future. I've always said, if you don't innovate, you'll evaporate.

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"We cannot rely on imported fuels forever and we aim to replace traditional oil and gas boiler systems with products which are much more efficient."

Martin's son Neil, now chief executive of international business development and deputy chairman of the Glen Dimplex Group, said the firm has always stayed ahead of the curve.

"Making new products is an easy tap for a company in a recession," he said.

"Glen Dimplex did not take the easy way out, we dramatically amplified work and investment. We didn't wait for the renewable heat incentives to come into place, we wanted to be first to provide consumers with alternative ways to heat their homes."