Bombardier Makes Big Landing in Northern Ireland
with 1,200-Worker Belfast Expansion
It was possibly some of the sweetest news sounded out in Belfast since Van Morrison first loosed his dulcet tones where the streets have no names:
In what ranks as perhaps the strongest endorsement of Northern Ireland's efforts to increase the national peace, Bombardier Aerospace (www.aerospace.bombardier.com) is adding 1,200 workers at its Belfast operation.
Speaking in Belfast as the company announced its plans, Bombardier Aerospace President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Graff said: "Continuing strong demand for many Bombardier aircraft products, coupled with our desire to shorten delivery lead times, is driving a realignment of our manufacturing plan."
Bombardier's already significant presence in Northern Ireland made the nation the logical spot for that realignment, top management at the business unit of Quebec-based Bombardier Aerospace (www.bombardier.com) decided. With 5,763 workers, Bombardier is Northern Ireland's largest manufacturing employer.
Moreover, the world's third-largest civil airframe manufacturer was enamored with the productivity of its operations in Northern Ireland, Graff explained.
"Significant parts of the CRJ, Challenger and Global Express are already designed and built in Northern Ireland," he said. "Facilities and technology in Northern Ireland are world class, and our employees here are helping our company compete successfully in a very demanding global marketplace. [S]o the decision to place more of the manufacturing load on Belfast was both logical and natural."
"This new business reflects the success of Bombardier Aerospace in the marketplace and our local operation's outstanding track record in engineering excellence, product quality and on-time delivery," Graff continued. "We have an exceptionally strong skills base and our productivity in Belfast ranks with the best in the group."
The venture outside its Canadian headquarters nation is anything but new for Bombardier, a diversified a leading manufacturer of business jets, regional aircraft, rail transportation equipment and motorized recreational products. More than 90 per cent of its revenues are generated outside Canada, and it has 56,000 employees in 12 nations in Asia, Europe and North America.
Over the next two years, the decision to add 1,200 workers will expand the company's Belfast-based workforce by 20 per cent.
Bombardier's Belfast-area expansion investment will be focused primarily in plant and equipment, product development, and employee training, company officials explained. As a result of the expansion, the production rate for the major components in the CRJ 100/200 series that are already produced in Belfast will significantly increase, they added.
The expansion will also mean that the Belfast operation will take on additional aircraft work on the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) airliner, the Challenger 604 intercontinental business jet, and the Bombardier Global Express ultra long-range business aircraft.
The Bombardier expansion continues the substantial investment that the company has made since acquiring the Belfast operations from the UK government in 1989. David Trimble, Northern Ireland First Minister, commented on that history at the latest Bombardier expansion's announcement.
"Bombardier has already invested $1.35 billion in Northern Ireland since acquiring Shorts from the government in 1989. [It] is clearly signaling to other global companies that it has tremendous faith in the superb design and engineering skills available here and will further strengthen our knowledge-base," Trimble said.
Ken Brundle, executive vice-president of operations for Bombardier Aerospace concurred with the First Minister's assessment:
"These new manufacturing responsibilities are a strong endorsement of our Northern Ireland operation and a clear expression of confidence in our people," Brundle asserted.
"This is an important day for Bombardier and Northern Ireland," Brundle continued. "This expansion of our operations, and the new jobs that come with it will have a positive effect on the UK economy and particularly Northern Ireland. Our supplier network across the rest of the UK and Europe will also benefit from the opportunity to increase their business with Bombardier."
The 1,200-worker expansion may be followed by more expansion investment, Bombardier officials suggested as the project was announced.
Said Graff, "These are extremely significant contracts strengthening the company's existing role within Bombardier Aerospace programs and will mean the Northern Ireland operation becoming the supplier of further major aero-structures."
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Sťamus Mallon, who called the Bombardier decision "a clear signal that Northern Ireland is capable of competing for and winning global business," also alluded to the nation's long efforts to establish a lasting peace:
"Our new political institutions must strive to create new economic opportunities such as this that will have a real and lasting impact on people's lives," Mallon said. "I am also delighted that the benefits of this expansion are open, not only to our talented young people from our schools and universities, but also to many who were previously long term unemployed.
"We must work together to build on our economic potential as an excellent location for the supply of goods and services worldwide."
First Minister Trimble -- who's been such a force in trying to heal the nation's rifts that he won the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize -- sounded a similarly hopeful note.
"This is an extremely important endorsement of Northern Ireland as a high-tech manufacturing location by a leading global corporation as we seek to build a more stable and prosperous future for everyone," Trimble asserted.
©2000 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.