Ryobi invests £32m in Carrickfergus plant and creates 100 new jobs
Japanese company to recruit 100 following ministers' trade mission
A £32m investment creating 100 new manufacturing jobs at a Japanese-owned firm in Co Antrim is vindication for high-profile trade missions, the First and Deputy First Minister have said.
The pair have said that visits to other countries and companies by Northern Ireland's politicians encourages high levels of foreign direct investment here, such as that made by Ryobi Aluminium Casting.
The Japanese firm is ploughing the investment into its only European plant in Carrickfergus, where staff make products for the European car market.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness met company chairman Hirsoshi Urakami – who attended yesterday's announcement – and president Akira Urakami in December as part of a business mission to Japan.
Invest Northern Ireland offered £2m to the company to support the deal, which will bring the workforce to just under 400 and contribute £2m to the economy in terms of wages each year.
"We feel that this (announcement) vindicates the position that the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Martin and I have adopted in going out and speaking to these companies," Mr Robinson said.
"It is important to hear these company's plans and what we can offer them and how we can assist them."
Mr McGuinness added: "These investments will only be made when we go out into the big world, develop contacts and promote our workforce, otherwise we are not going to achieve high levels of foreign direct investment."
Ryobi chairman Hiroshi Urakami, speaking through an interpreter, said that the company had received great support from the Northern Ireland government and Invest Northern Ireland.
He added that the high standard of work carried out in the Carrickfergus factory helped the firm build a good reputation with customers.
"It is important to talk and make time and make people understand what we do and what we need – it makes it easier to do business," he said.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, who was also present at the announcement, said that the investment was an endorsement of the Northern Ireland workforce.
In December, the First and Deputy First Ministers met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was among those who attended the G8 summit in Fermanagh in June.
A number of meetings with existing and potential investors as well as the British and Irish ambassadors took place.
Japanese-owned businesses in Northern Ireland currently employ more than 2,400 people.
Similar trade missions have also taken the ministers to China and the US.
John Hughes, managing director of the Ryobi Carrickfergus factory said that production at the site will increase by a quarter this year after tough tradition conditions.
"We have excellent mechanical engineering skills here and we make a wide variety of parts and components," he said.
* What does Ryobi make at its Carrickfergus plant?
Aluminium car parts – primarily castings of clutch cases, transmission cases which hold gearboxes, engine blocks, a wide variety of brackets as well as parts of motor sub frames.
* How much will the new jobs be worth?
The 100 jobs will command a salary of £2m a year, a figure which works out at an average salary of £20,000.
Ryobi just one of four major players trading locally
RYOBI is just one of a number of Japanese owned firms trading in Northern Ireland.
Ryobi was founded as a die casting company in Hiroshima in 1943 and the Carrickfergus facility was established in 1990. Production began in 1991, when the company employed less than 30 people and supplied two parts for the Ford Motor Company. Production operations include casting, machining and assembly operations, and the company now supplies 33 different parts to Germany, Spain, France, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the UK.
In Larne, Terumo BCT manufactures products used in blood transfusions.
The business has been in Larne for more than nine years and also has plants in the US, Japan, India, Belgium and China, employing 4,700 people worldwide. Over 400 jobs were announced at the company in June 2013.
The new jobs will include positions involving entry-level manufacturing, scientific, microbiology, chemistry and engineering as more equipment is introduced.
Late last year, Japanese IT firm Fujitsu announced that it is to expand operations in Londonderry. The 192 jobs bring to 1,000 the number employed by Fujitsu in Belfast, Antrim and Derry. The December announcement marked the fourth investment Fujitsu has announced here in the last seven years.
And in Ballymena, Gallaher Limited has been part of Japan Tobacco International (JTI) since April 2007. JTI is the international tobacco division of Japan Tobacco Inc., the third largest global tobacco company. The Ballymena factory employs around 945 people in production, engineering, human resources, finance and logistics at the site, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Ballymena produces cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.
How we won over Eastern investors
By David Elliott
The latest investment in Northern Ireland by a Japanese firm could be said to be the direct result of a successful charm offensive by our politicians.
When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited for the G8 last year he, like other leaders, was treated to a concerted sales pitch by Stormont's representatives and Invest NI.
As shown below, Japan is already well represented in Northern Ireland, and Mr Abe spent longer than many other leaders around the summit checking in on the likes of Fujitsu and Ryobi.
He must have liked what he heard because he invited the first ministers to visit Japan, a trip they completed in December, having already wooed other Japanese investors during October's Investment Conference.
These face-to-face meetings, extremely important in Japanese business culture, seem to have borne results with an expansion of the workforce at Fujitsui and the latest Ryobi announcement.
At the time of the Investment Conference, officials said it would be some months or even years before the results of the event would be known and with any luck there will be more, from Japan and beyond, in the pipeline.