Business

'White elephant' business park finally gets main tenant

Enterprise minister Jonathan Bell is pictured with Alastair Hamilton, Invest NI, Sarah Holt, RLC; and mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Thomas Hogg

A MASSIVE business park in Newtownabbey is to get its first major tenant more than 20 years after the potential of the former green field site as an industrial hub was first mooted.

Aerospace firm RLC is spending 35 million on a new factory at Invest NI's Global Point park at Corr's Corner.

The company, which makes advanced engine parts for Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce, will create 80 new jobs at the 108,000 sq ft facility.

It marks the long awaited coming of age for the Global Point park, which for years had been dogged by a 'white elephant' tag.

The 147-acre site had been earmarked for the ill-fated Taiwanese textiles group Hualon as far back as the early 1990s.

At the turn of the century, US property group and ProLogis and Invest NI's predecessor the Industrial Development Board (IDB) announced plans to build the business park - before the Colorado investors dramatically withdrew support, leaving the government jobs body to go it alone.

Welcoming news that RLC was to set up at the park, Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton admitted it had been a long time coming.

He said the centre had been held back by planning issues, global market conditions and that marketing for such a large scheme can take years to bear fruit.

The body has offered around 6.5m to RLC to support the expansion.

The 80 jobs will pay 35,000 on average.

RLC already employs more the an 250 people at Langford Lodge in Crumlin.

It had already secured permission to expand that base but turned attentions to Global Point due to the surrounding infrastructure.

Company director Sarah Holt said the move was neccessary after it "recently secured high technology, long-term projects with leading global aerospace companies, which offer significant opportunities for RLC".

"To deliver on these contracts we need to invest in a major R&D project and enhance our manufacturing capability. Having considered our options we have decided that, taking into account the availability of skills and the support from Invest NI, Northern Ireland offers an excellent and cost-effective location from which to service these contracts," she said.

As part of the investment, RLC is also undertaking a research and development project to enable it to manufacture structural guide vanes at high production rates for the next generation aero engines.

Enterprise minister Jonathan Bell said he was "delighted that the company has chosen to establish this new facility in Northern Ireland, which will position it at the forefront of global advanced manufacturing for the aerospace sector".

Its decision to locate its new hard metal machining operations and its highly innovative R&D project here in Northern Ireland was greatly influenced by the availability of Invest NIs Global Point green field site and RLCs confidence that it can recruit skilled workers," he said.

The global aerospace sector is a dynamic one which will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

"RLCs investment secures its presence in Northern Ireland, and demonstrates to the international aerospace community that this region represents a sound location for providing advanced manufacturing and engineering solutions.

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