Edge Innovate spending £8m on new plant to stay ahead of game
A Co Tyrone firm is embarking on an ambitious £8m expansion plan to prevent it from falling behind its rivals in mid-Ulster's crowded engineering sector.
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Edge Innovate yesterday announced 80 new jobs and a proposal to build a 37,500 sq ft factory at its facility in Edendork, outside Dungannon.
It has already filled almost half the new positions, bringing its workforce to 160.
The company, which designs and manufactures quarrying, mining, materials handling and recycling equipment, is part of a major manufacturing hub in the Dungannon area that includes Terex, Mallaghan and McAvoy.
Managing director Darragh Cullen said that despite Brexit creating the most uncertain period for the industry since the recession, "you can't afford to wait, otherwise your competitors will overtake you".
"It's scary times for manufacturers in Northern Ireland," he added, "but if you are confident in your product and the ability of your people, you have to go on ahead."
He also stressed that while numerous materials handling firms in mid-Ulster thrived on one another's success, they also regularly competed for contracts on the other side of the world.
Edge Innovate's most notable recent deal was a £750,000 order for machinery to assist with the recycling of car tyres in Oman.
The firm's key growth areas include north and south America, as well as the middle east.
Mr Cullen said the uncertainty around the UK's future trading relationships with other parts of the world once it leaves the EU remained a major area of concern. He highlighted that businesses were also worried about the impact of ending the free movement of people.
"A lot of manufacturing industries in mid-Ulster and right across Northern Ireland are heavily reliant on people who have emigrated and set up their lives here," Mr Cullen said. "They make a positive contribution to all our businesses. We need those people to stay, and we need more people to help us to grow.
"If coming out of EU stops that from happening, then it is going to have repercussions for the growth of every business in the medium term."
The managing director said part of the £8m expansion involved investing in staff through a leadership and skills development programme.
"The success Edge Innovate has enjoyed in recent years is ultimately a reflection of our people," he insisted.
"At the same time, demand for our products is increasing.
"This investment ensures we are able to capitalise on this demand with the additional space, equipment and people needed to achieve our export targets.
"Invest NI's support is helping us make this investment at a quicker rate, meaning we are able to capitalise on new export opportunities."
The economic development agency is backing Edge Innovate's plan with £957,000 of financial support.
Chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: "We have worked closely with the company for a number of years now, most recently with our scaling team, and it is a pleasure to see the results of the company's commitment.
"The new roles will generate nearly £2m annually in additional salaries once all are in place.
"Equally important is the investment in training for staff, which will make a positive contribution to the collaborative work ongoing across mid-Ulster to build the skills pipeline in this industry."