THE Managing Director of a Cookstown food facility has said he expects sales to soar as a result of a multi-million pound investment plan.
Vion MD Seamus Carr was speaking after Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster announced that the Molesworth Road pork factory is to invest £11.5 million to enhance its processing facilities.
The move will mean an incredible 164 new jobs created at the leading County Tyrone plant.
The company’s investment will enable it to install new equipment, which will improve animal welfare and increase processing capacity. It is also investing in improved chilling technology, as some of the existing chills date back to the original construction of the plant in 1938.
Invest Northern Ireland has offered Vion £960,000, which includes £244,500 of support through its Jobs Fund.
Mr Carr also said the multi-million pound plans would include a huge emphasis on ‘people investment’
“Our strategy is to build on the success of the Cookstown brand by investing in our people and in our processes,” he said.
“We anticipate a substantial increase in productivity and sales as a result of this investment.
“Invest NI’s support has meant we can move forward quickly with the project and ensure the continuing viability of the facility in Cookstown.”
Vion’s operation in Cookstown forms part of the Vion Food Group which is headquartered in the Netherlands. The Cookstown facility is the largest pig processing site in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and among the largest in the UK, producing pork, sausages, bacon and cooked meats.
As well as selling its products under the Cookstown brand the company, which currently employs over 700 people, supplies major customers such as Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury, ASDA, Henderson Group, Musgrave, Samworth Bros and Dew Valley.
With the enhanced processing equipment in place the Vion facility in Cookstown will continue to underpin the future sustainability of the Northern Ireland pig industry.
Speaking last week, Minister Foster said: “This investment is a tremendous boost and another example of Invest Northern Ireland’s Jobs Fund supporting the creation of new employment opportunities.
“The enhancements to the company’s processing facilities will allow it to become more efficient and increase profitability as well as ensuring that the pigs are handled in the most humane way possible.
“Vion anticipates a significant increase in sales as a result of this investment and will ensure the company continues to play a strategic role in sustaining the important Northern Ireland pork sector.”
Local politicians have hailed the news as “new hope” for those struggling to find work in the tough economic climate.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said the investment would not only benefit Cookstown but Mid-Ulster as a whole.
He said: “Vion Food’s investment in Cookstown demonstrates their commitment to the town and its people.
“The 164 new jobs are particularly welcome in the current economic climate and will take the number of people they employ at Cookstown to well over 800.
“With the assistance of Invest NI this is a clear signal to other companies that Cookstown, and the Mid Ulster area in general, is a good place to do business.
“The local economy will benefit from this investment as well as from the ripple effect it will create for other businesses in the area. I am glad to have been involved in the early stages of this project, and I would like to thank the Divisional Planning Manager, Gerry Hogg, for his assistance in advising on the planning process for this expansion.”
SDLP Council Grouping Leadre Tony Quinn added: “This is fantastic news for the people of Cookstown and it’s a great opportunity for those out there seeking jobs in the district.”
MP MLA for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness described the investment as “a good news story in difficult economic times”.
He said: “Investment on this scale with 164 jobs will ensure the continued development of the factory in terms of technology and equipment. This will enable the local workforce to enhance their own skills and experience in the food sector which will greatly benefit them in the industry.
“The creation of an additional 164 jobs will not only instil confidence into the local economy but will create significant spin-off benefits to other local businesses. It will also confirm the Cookstown factory’s position as the largest pig processing plant on the island of Ireland.”