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Wrightbus buys former JTI Gallaher site in Ballymena

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The JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena

The JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena

The JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena

Wrightbus has bought the site left behind by tobacco giant JTI Gallaher after it shut its doors with the loss of 800 jobs.

The Ballymena bus maker is taking on the 100-acre site, which it says will be available in mid-2017.

The decision of JTI to close down in Ballymena was announced in 2014, and was followed a year later by tyre maker Michelin's decision to close its operations in the town, with the loss of 860 posts.

Wrights Group chairman and chief executive Mark Nodder, said: “Our current operations in Galgorm have become somewhat ‘landlocked’ in recent years, as substantial growth across the various parts of our business has progressively taken up all the land that we have owned.

“The imminent closure of the JTI facility has presented us with an opportunity to secure a substantial site, which will give us the additional space and operational flexibility we require to ensure that our future growth and development plans are not hampered by real estate constraints.”

“In recent years, a good deal of the company’s growth has been in international markets which has required varying degrees of overseas investment. Yet Ballymena has always remained the heart and soul of our operations. The purchase of the Lisnafillan site further underlines our continuing and long term commitment to the town, its people and its local economy.”

JTI UK’s engineering director, Greg McKinley, said: “Since the announcement of our factory closure, we have been exploring all opportunities to find a suitable buyer for our factory site. We are very pleased that Wrights Group has agreed to purchase the site and we look forward to working closely with them to complete the sale by mid 2017.”

Belfast Telegraph