Posted on Friday 25 October 2013 by Ulster Business

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Construction giant Caterpillar has confirmed plans to produce additional products in Northern Ireland as part of a £7m capital investment supported by Invest NI.

The Illinois-headquartered company, which currently makes FG Wilson generator sets at four sites in the province, said it will start production of wheeled material handlers from the middle of 2014.

The yellow-coloured Cat machines are typically used by customers around the world for scrap sorting and handling, and forestry applications.

Caterpillar NI said its expansion will see further development of skills at the company's local operations and when fully established, approximately 100 positions will be required to run the operation – some of which will be filled by retraining existing staff.

The move is being seen as a vote of confidence in Northern Ireland by the American firm, which only last year announced the loss of over 700 jobs after deciding to move production of its smaller generator sets to China to be closer to customers in Asia.

Robert Kennedy, Caterpillar Northern Ireland Operations Director, said: "We are very pleased to have the support of Invest NI and the Department for Employment and Learning to make this investment which will enable new work to come to Northern Ireland, providing an important addition to our existing operations. All Caterpillar Northern Ireland locations will benefit through the diversification of manufacturing, enabling us to continue to develop the skills and expertise of our local work force."

Jody Howard, General Manager for Caterpillar's Industrial & Waste Group, added: "This expansion recognises the high standard of the facilities, processes and skills in Northern Ireland. We are making investments with a long-term view towards meeting our customers' needs, while building an industry-leading range of products and support services from the base of operations in Northern Ireland."

The project is being supported by an offer of over £1m from Invest NI. The Department for Employment and Learning has also offered £220,000 of support through its Assured Skills Programme.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "Caterpillar is globally renowned for engineering and manufacturing excellence so I am delighted with today's news which is a boost for the wider manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland.

"I travelled to Chicago in September 2012 to meet Caterpillar management and discuss its Northern Ireland operations. At that time, this project was at an early stage and the company was looking at other sites outside Northern Ireland. I assured Caterpillar of my continued support for its Northern Ireland operations and encouraged them to engage with Invest NI, particularly as skills development and wider support would play such a vital role in the decision making process."

Employment Minister Dr Stephen Farry added: "As the Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Services Working Group, I welcome this diversification by Caterpillar in Northern Ireland and the fact that part of the investment will be targeted at further enhancing core skills for the sector. Assured Skills funding from my Department will ensure that the organisation has the support necessary for training initiatives to develop the specific skills required."

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