Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland conveyor belt firm Smiley Monroe set to open a factory in US

Ryan Wright, Chris Monroe and Jayne Peters of Smiley Monroe
Ryan Wright, Chris Monroe and Jayne Peters of Smiley Monroe

By Lisa Smyth

A Co Antrim firm is opening a manufacturing facility in America as it prepares for the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Smiley Monroe, a manufacturer of conveyor belts, is opening a plant in Franklin, Kentucky, and said it will safeguard jobs at the company's headquarters in Lisburn.

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has played a role in the decision to expand into the US, as well as the low tax for importing rubber into America, the company said.

The firm's global sales manager, Chris Monroe, said setting up a manufacturing plant in America was a "natural strategic move" as a result of a number of different factors.

He said: "With the political uncertainty both in the UK and beyond, protecting our export sales is paramount to growing the business and safeguarding jobs in Northern Ireland.

"Having a base in the US will shorten lead times for customers and help us be more competitive in the tough US market.

"Removing barriers to trade will fast track our ambitious growth plans to increase turnover by 50% over the next three years."

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Proximity to major customers and an available workforce also played a part in the decision to set up a presence in Franklin, according to the company.

Financial and logistical assistance have also been offered by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The company, which also has a factory in India, will be working closely with Simpson County in the coming months to recruit a core team of production operatives and support staff with employee numbers set to expand to 30 over the next five years.

The firm, a family-run business which operates from the Knockmore Hill Industrial Park in Lisburn, reported a turnover of almost £24m last year, up from £19.4m in 2017.

However, according to accounts filed with Companies House, its profit for the year was down to £1.34m from £1.7m in 2017.

Smiley Monroe was set up 40 years ago and among its products are the energy-saving King Rollers, synthetic screen media and conveyor belt cleaning systems which are used in sectors as diverse as mobile crushing, screening and recycling, mining, quarrying, cement works, fertiliser plants, biomass and waste management.

The firm exports to more than 60 countries, supporting customers such as Powerscreen, Terex, Wirtgen, McCloskey and CDE.

Belfast Telegraph