1. ITV Report

Wrights Group to buy JTI site in Ballymena

JTI Gallaher is closing its operation in Ballymena, with a loss of around 900 jobs. Credit: Presseye

Wrights Group has confirmed it is buying the 100-acre JTI site in Ballymena, with the deal likely to be completed early next year.

The Lisnafillan site will become available in mid-2017, due to JTI’s closure of its operation in the Co Antrim town amid restructuring of the tobacco firm in Europe.

Bus manufacturers Wrights Group say securing the facility will allow them to look at a range of options going forward.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has welcomed the acquisition.

This investment by the Wrights Group is positive news for Northern Ireland manufacturing and the local Ballymena community, which has experienced challenging times of late.

Growing and strengthening our indigenous manufacturing businesses is at the core of Invest Northern Ireland’s strategy.

By securing the Lisnafillan facility, the Wrights Group is cementing its commitment to Ballymena and demonstrating its drive for growth in international markets.

– Economy Minister Simon Hamilton
Wrights Group says it will now be able to expand, while staying in Ballymena. Credit: Presseye

Wrights Group Chairman and CEO Mark Nodder said: “Our current operations in Galgorm have become somewhat ‘landlocked’ in recent years, as substantial growth across the various parts of our business has progressively taken up all the land that we have owned.

“The imminent closure of the JTI facility has presented us with an opportunity to secure a substantial site, which will give us the additional space and operational flexibility we require to ensure that our future growth and development plans are not hampered by real estate constraints.”

Steven Francey, Wrights Group MD, said: “We would naturally hope that, in the medium to long term, our investment will create additional employment opportunities within a number of our business areas.”

JTI has also welcomed the sale.

In recent years, a good deal of the company’s growth has been in international markets which has required varying degrees of overseas investment.

Yet Ballymena has always remained the heart and soul of our operations.

The purchase of the Lisnafillan site further underlines our continuing and long term commitment to the town, its people and its local economy.

– Mark Nodder, Wrights Group