Wurkhouse to create 30 digital jobs in Derry

Alastair Hamilton (right), Invest NI, is pictured with Troy Armour, Wurkhouse.

Alastair Hamilton (right), Invest NI, is pictured with Troy Armour, Wurkhouse.

Londonderry based technology firm Wurkhouse is to create 30 digital marketing jobs as part of ambitious expansion plans to help it grow its export sales. Wurkhouse provides innovative marketing solutions to a wide range of clients based both locally and outside of Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the investment, Invest Northern Ireland’s Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton said: “Wurkhouse is a young and innovative business with high growth potential. The 30 jobs being created will contribute over £780,000 in additional annual salaries to the economy and offer excellent employment opportunities in the local area.

“The Creative Industries sector has been identified in Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Strategic Growth Plan as a priority sector for future economic growth and prosperity. Wurkhouse is a great example of a successful firm that is making a valuable contribution to that plan and providing local job opportunities for the talented workforce in the North West.

“We are delighted to support Wurkhouse in the next stage of its journey and to ensure it has the skills and knowledge necessary to exploit the substantial export opportunities it has identified, particularly in the GB and RoI markets.”

The new roles will include a range of designers, web developers, SEO and social media roles and will increase the company’s employment to 49 staff over the next three years.

In 2015, Wurkhouse received assistance from Invest NI of £24,000 to help with developing its design team.

Troy Armour, CEO of Wurkhouse said: “We are focused on becoming the leading digital agency in Northern Ireland through our export driven growth strategy. The advice and support we have received from Invest NI is helping us to scale quickly and has been vital to our ongoing growth and development.

“We play an integral role in the success of many of our clients and we believe that this success comes from our experienced staff and in-depth knowledge of the digital sector. We are confident that the North West region has the skills base we need to enhance our team, which will help us to achieve our ambitious plans for growth over the next three years and beyond.

“These jobs are for what we call ‘Creative Intelligents’. We seek two core attributes when hiring; intelligence and passion so we are looking for people with intelligence, who have a passion for what they do. This helps us deliver smart solutions for our clients and their passion is carried over into the delivery. It is like that old adage – cooking with love just makes the food taste better.”

A STRABANE-based manufacturer is set to double its workforce in an ambitious £7 million expansion.

Strabane-based Fabplus has announced it is planning to more than double its workforce and turnover. Darren McGavigan (left), Fabplus is pictured with Alastair Hamilton and Des Gartland, Invest NI

Strabane-based Fabplus has announced it is planning to more than double its workforce and turnover. Darren McGavigan (left), Fabplus is pictured with Alastair Hamilton and Des Gartland, Invest NI

Fabplus, which provides provides prefabricated pipework for use in fire sprinkler systems, is set to create 83 new jobs as part of a three-year plan to increase business both at home and abroad.

Recruitment is already underway to fill the new positions, which include management and production staff and the roles, set to be in place by 2019, will generate £1.7million annually in additional salaries, bring total employment at the firm to 138 people.

The major investment further includes expansion of the firm’s factory space storage and R&D facilities on Orchard Road as well as the development of an in-house powder coating and pipe optimisation capability and implementation of a staff training plan.

Fablus director Darren McGavigan said the ambitious expansion plan is being carried out with a view to competing in the global market.

“Extending the factory by 48,000 sq ft will increase our production capacity and improve factory workflow. Adding breadth and depth to the management team will also introduce additional expertise into the business while implementing our innovative new processes will consolidate our market leading position with new and existing customers.”

Invest NI has offered £786,000 towards the expansion, including £187,590 of R&D support, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said the latest investment from Fabplus is a “significant boost” to the construction sector.

Fabplus is an established family business in Strabane which has experienced considerable growth over the last five years. The company has been working in partnership with Invest NI during this time and developed a strong competitive advantage in the UK marketplace.”

Fabplus wants to take advantage of growth opportunities in mainland Europe and Scandinavia and is utilising our help and expertise to invest in the resources, capabilities, training and R&D needed to help achieve its objective,” Mr Hamilton added.

The family business is a subsidiary of Mechanical Pipework Fabrication Limited (MPF), based in Lifford in the Republic of Ireland. Its equipment is installed in power stations, warehouses, retail buildings, hospitals, stadiums, apartment blocks and factories throughout Britain and the island of Ireland.

CIVIC and political representatives gathered in the Guildhall at the weekend to welcome Chinese Provincial and Municipal leaders as part of the delegation visiting N. Ireland for the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.

CIVIC and political representatives gathered in the Guildhall at the weekend to welcome Chinese Provincial and Municipal leaders as part of the delegation visiting N. Ireland for the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.

CIVIC and political representatives gathered in the Guildhall at the weekend to welcome Chinese Provincial and Municipal leaders as part of the delegation visiting N. Ireland for the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, hosted a special reception for the five members of the delegation representing the City of Dalian, led by Vice-Mayor Lu Lin.

The trip was organised by the NI Executive Bureau in Beijing as part of the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.

Local MP Elisha McCallion, joined the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and local party leaders in welcoming the delegates, and discussions centred on building links between the two cities and the many mutual benefits of a future partnership.

They were later joined by leading figures in local business and education, who had the opportunity to speak to delegates about the shared interests of the two areas and the North West’s attractive proposition as a base for global business.

The delegation have been enjoying the local hospitality during their three day visit to the region, which took them first to Belfast, before they arrived in the city on Sunday.

The Mayor extended a warm welcome to the group, and spoke of the strengthening relations between the two countries. “It’s an honour to host members of the Regional Leaders’ Summit here today as part of this prestigious event,” he stressed.

“This visit is testament to the ongoing efforts of our local politicians and business leaders to establish meaningful links with China.

“Council is committed to the forging and strengthening of international relations, and as our regional profile grows, we can look towards international markets for the opportunities for trade and investment which will galvanise our position in terms of global business.”

Based in North East China, the city of Dalian is a global financial centre with a population of over 6.5million.

The city specialises in the Financial and IT sectors, and is home to some of the major players in these industries including Oracle, IBM and CISCO. Local political and civic leaders heard more about their developments in the software industry, bio-medicine, digitalisation, marine engineering and advanced manufacturing.

During the visit Council’s Chief Executive John Kelpie gave the visitors an insight into the ambitious plans for growth for the NW as outlined in the recently published Strategic Growth Plan for Derry and Strabane.

The delegation heard about the City and District’s plans to enhance infrastructure, invest in jobs and skills and create the ideal environment for global investors to do business.

“We have been working to establish strong international links with locations such as Boston Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and the City of London and now we are turning our attentions to the East as part of our outreach to foreign direct investors,” Mr Kelpie explained after the meeting.

“The City is fast becoming a learning hub, and as our academic institutions at Ulster University and North West Regional College continue to forge ahead with plans for growth, we have much to offer in terms of education and skills.

“Coupled with our focus on entrepreneurship and our growing expertise in areas such as the digital and advanced manufacturing industries, we have many common interests which can form the basis of a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with the city of Dalian.”

Work begins on building on strong connections made in Boston and Philadelphia

Ireland Northwest Delegation members

Ireland Northwest Delegation members

A first ever North West Trade delegation trip to Philadelphia next summer is one of a number of positive outcomes from last week’s joint Council led trade and investment mission in North East America.

The delegation, led by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh and Leas Cathoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Noel Jordan, included representatives from 15 local companies, Údaras Na Gaeltachta and senior council officers.

Representatives from Ulster University, North West Regional College and Letterkenny IT also made the trip as the region presented a united front to showcase its offering for inward investment and potential export opportunity.

A key element of the trip was showcasing the region’s entrepreneurship and innovation and to provide local companies with an opportunity to tie into the US market.

The delegation returned to Ireland at the weekend and work has already begun on building on the strong connections made during their week in the US.

“The mission sought to build on the ongoing positive work being carried out by the two Councils to establish strong economic development links and initiatives in the US,” explained Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council John Kelpie.

“We showcased the region as a well placed, cost competitive investment hub with high speed broadband and a young, talented and well educated workforce.

“Our message was well received and the challenge now is to build on the many positive connections the Councils and travelling companies have made to deliver increased education links and export relationships between our two regions and attract more direct investment into the North West region.”

The delegation began their five day trip in Philadelphia where they met with the City’s Mayor Jim Kenney and representatives from the City’s Chamber of Commerce and civic representatives to plan the details on the 2018 trade mission.

After a day exploring business and life science partnerships in the City of Worcester and an evening meeting with Irish Consul-General Fionnuala Quinlan on Tuesday, the delegation met up with the 15 local companies for the start of three days of networking in Boston.

On Wednesday morning, the Ireland North West Showcase presentation at allowed both Councils to sell the region as a prime area for investment before a networking event allowed the local companies to meet with potential partners in the US.

Thursday saw the delegation take part in an Invest NI breakfast with Ireland’s Ambassador to the US Daniel Mulhall and key decision makers before a meeting with the City of Boston International Economic Development Office and a visit to Boston’s House of Representatives.

The week climaxed with the annual Golden Bridges Conference and Awards on Friday at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Centre where officers from Ulster University, Letterkenny IT and the North West Regional College joined representatives from Harvard in a panel discussion on the benefits of a strategic alliance between the three further and higher education providers in the region and the increasing partnerships with Boston-based colleges.

Delegates heard from Derry City and Strabane District Council Chief Executive John Kelpie and Donegal County Council Chief Executive Seamus Neely who discussed Ireland’s role as America’s Best Friend in Europe. Officers from both Councils also discussed ‘Driving Tourism to the North West through World Class Events’ and ‘Helping Start-ups Survive and Thrive’.

Reflecting on the trip, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, said the joined up approach of the region’s civic, business and educational representatives filled him with optimism for the future.

“The message from the Ireland North West delegation was very clear, that we were a prime location for inward investment and trade with Derry as a city operating in partnership with the regional towns of Strabane and Letterkenny,” he noted.

“The trip highlighted the importance of the joined up strategy of our educational institutions with the North West Regional College’s campuses in Strabane and Derry working alongside their colleagues in Ulster University and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

“Those institutions’ are part of a strong working relationship with Council and our local businesses and their flexibility in being able to adopt to the needs of industry to address any skills shortages was reassuring to potential investors.”

Among the companies from the Derry City and Strabane District Council area in the Ireland North West delegation are AE Global (formerly Allpipe Engineering); The Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC); ActionSense Ltd; Makematic; NeuroConcise; O’Neill’s Irish International Sports Co Ltd; Troll Inc; and Type 40 Creative.

While Aniar Cumhacht Teoranta; Algaran Teoranta; O’Donnell’s Bakery; Silver Birch Gallery; Meastoiri Domhanda Teo; Eilis Galbraith and DS Environmental Services Ltd from the Donegal County Council area also took part.

Derry set to strengthen trade links with China

The city of Dalian and Zhongshan Square, Liaoning Province, China

The city of Dalian and Zhongshan Square, Liaoning Province, China

Derry’s council is set to strengthen its trade links with a city in China as part of a push to attract future investment, it’s emerged.

The move is part of a wider strategy by Derry City and Strabane Council, which also involves building trade relations with Boston and Philadelphia.

Earlier this week a delegation, led by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh and Leas Cathoirleach of Donegal County Council visited both regions to discuss bolstering trading links between the northwest and the US.

It’s now emerged that council has now its sights set on Dalian in the Liaoning Province of China as a potential target for future trade missions.

Dalian is seen as the financial, shipping and logistics centre for Northeast Asia.

The plans were discussed at Friday afternoon’s meeting of council’s Business and Culture committee, where Stephen Gillespie, Director of Business and Culture with the council, gave an update on its International Relations Activities.

The meeting heard that council has been undertaking activities to ‘enhance its reputation and capacity to attract investment, expand business opportunity, extending the global reach of the region and its economy’.

As part of this, Mr Gillespie added that council is ‘actively developing its international connections through a range of channels and relationships such as trade missions and international activation visits’.

He continued: “These relationships need to be formalised over time and a number of activities are in the pipeline which will strengthen this.”

He added these would involve a range of partners include the Ulster University, North West Regional College (NWRC), Invest NI and ‘other bodies with shared ambitions’.

Councillors were then asked to give approval for the council to develop more formalised relationships with the City of Dalian, Laoning Province, China, which was agreed.

At the same meeting, approval was also given for council to develop and enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Boston.

Ireland North West and City of Boston sign MOU

Civic leaders from the City of Boston and the North West of Ireland sign an MOU

Civic leaders from the City of Boston and the North West of Ireland sign an MOU

Civic leaders from the City of Boston and the North West of Ireland have signed an MOU this week to formalise their economic partnership.

The ‘Boston-Ireland North West Innovation Economic Partnership’ pledges to further develop and expand the existing bilateral relationship between the two regions to create business and job opportunities through joint initiatives in innovation and trade.

The Transatlantic partnership was signed during this week’s visit of a local trade delegation to the Massachusetts city led by the Derry / Strabane and Donegal Councils.

Earlier this week, the Ireland North West delegation, that includes Council CEOs John Kelpie and Seamus Neely and Council officials, visited Philadelphia where a working group agreed to a first ever trade mission from Derry/Strabane and Donegal visiting the city this summer.

The Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, also met the delegation who spent a full day in Pennsylvania’s largest city exploring opportunities for business and educational partnerships.

The MOU agreement with Boston will initially focus on the fields of entrepreneurship, life sciences and healthcare technology and aims to build upon the successful economic development missions to Boston in recent years.

“I would like to warmly welcome the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding between our two regions,” said Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council at this week’s signing in Central Boston.

“I look forward to seeing the development and implementation of our joint and coordinated initiatives, initially in the areas of Entrepreneurship, Life Sciences and Healthcare Technology.

“Our regions have been closely linked through our diaspora for generations and I am pleased that we have been able to formally strengthen that link with this new partnership that can help accelerate business growth and create new jobs.”

Leas Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Noel Jordan added:

“This is a hugely positive development that builds on the strong work that has gone on behind the scenes in recent years to strengthen the economic partnership between our regions.

“The joint initiatives committed to today will help expand the growth of our shared industries and strengthen the assets that are key to the North West region’s economy growing and being globally competitive in the future.”

Among the responsibilities of both regions detailed in the memorandum are the sharing of best economic practices to strengthen their mutual abilities to support bilateral trade.

The parties have also agreed to encourage academic research and development collaboration in life sciences and healthcare technology, as well committing to the promotion of economic development and opportunities for small businesses.

Dragon Brand Foods in bid to drive export growth with new investment: Strabane based food manufacturer, Dragon Brand Foods is investing over half a million in jobs, innovation and a new factory with the support of Invest Northern Ireland.

Pictured at the site of the new factory at Strabane Business Park are (L – R) Paul McGuigan, Dragon Brand Foods, and Des Gartland, Invest NI.

Pictured at the site of the new factory at Strabane Business Park are (L – R) Paul McGuigan, Dragon Brand Foods, and Des Gartland, Invest NI.

The company is due to begin construction on its new factory at Strabane Business Park as part of its plans to grow its business. The company is also creating four new roles and is using a Grant for R&D to develop a new range of Free From sauces, dips and condiments for the more health conscious consumer.

Making the announcement, Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North West Regional Manager said:

Dragon Brand Foods is a highly ambitious and export focused business with innovation at its core. The company is using a range of Invest NI support to drive efficiencies which will enhance its competitiveness in the global marketplace. The company’s decision to build a new factory at Strabane Business Park is a significant commitment and has involved a lot of preparatory work. I am pleased we have been able to help the company through this process and I look forward to seeing their plans come to fruition.”

The company’s investment will see it build 7,500 square feet of manufacturing space at Strabane Business Park. Invest NI developed the park to help address the shortage of available industrial land in the district and play an important role in supporting economic development in the local area. “This investment marks the next step in the company’s journey to achieving faster export growth and reaffirms its continuing commitment to the Strabane area. I hope that this announcement will act as a catalyst for further investment into the Strabane area”, continued Des.

Dragon brand Foods is making a total investment of £550,000. Invest NI has offered the company support of £153,563 towards creating four new roles, researching and developing new products and help building food safety protocols to drive growth in the ROI market.

Commenting on the investment, Paul McGuigan, Director of Dragon Brand Foods said:

“Our strategy is to pursue growth through investing in new products and innovation. Invest NI is providing us with invaluable support which is helping to safeguard our future and accelerate the future growth of our business. Building work for our new factory has already commenced and we look forward to growing our workforce to help us deliver valuable new contracts, particularly in the UK and ROI markets.”

Strabane Business Park offers potential tenants over 15 acres of serviced industrial land to help meet their immediate business growth needs.

Niche Drinks secures lucrative South Africa export deal for Quiet Man whiskey.

Pictured in South Africa are Michael Morris sales director, Niche Drinks and Steve Harper, Invest NI executive director of international business. Niche has agreed a new export deal with major wholesaler and retail chain Ultra Liquors

Pictured in South Africa are Michael Morris sales director, Niche Drinks and Steve Harper, Invest NI executive director of international business. Niche has agreed a new export deal with major wholesaler and retail chain Ultra Liquors

DERRY-based whiskey maker Niche Drinks has continued its international expansion by securing a lucrative export contract in South Africa.

The company, which also makes cream liqueurs, flavoured vodkas, ready-to-drink cocktails and microwaveable Irish coffees, will supply its Quiet Man whiskey brand to major wholesaler and retail chain Ultra Liquors in a deal that could be worth a quarter of a million pounds.

The export order, secured with Invest NI trade support, is initially for one container of 1,000 cases, but further are expected. The first foray into the South African market comes just weeks after Niche secured its first Russian orders of The Quiet Man whiskey in a £340,000 deal.

Speaking to the Irish News commercial director of Niche Drinks Michael Morris said Ultra Liquors was the “perfect fit” for the company and said there are high hopes for replenished orders very quickly.

“We’re going into full distribution in their cash and carry network, which is 70 big stores across the country. So that means our secondary distribution could be between two and three hundred outlets, maybe more. The hope would be that in a calendar year we could send four or five containers of whiskey down there.”

The Derry firm believes the deal could be worth at least a quarter of a million pounds a year and if successful may include its cream liquor.

Now in 22 international markets including the UK, US, western Europe and Scandinavia, the Russian and South African deals are part of ambitious plans for growth to see the Quiet Man brand grow into a global brand.

“We’ve got our core distribution in Europe and the US and the domestic markets and now we’re looking at South East Asia and eastern Europe and South Africa as part of phase two growth. In terms of the plans for phase two, getting the Russian deal and now the South African one means we’re well ahead of our forecast.”

Mr Morris also confirmed that initial demolition work has taken place at the former Ebrington Barracks site in Derry- the location for the company’s new whiskey distillery.

The £12 million investment is expected to lead to the creation of 35 jobs at Niche Drinks, which already employs 70 people at its Rossdowney Road site. It is hoped the new site will be open sometime between spring and early summer next year and help the firm reach its lofty goals.

“It will make an enormous difference and will kick us on to a new level. Once we are in production at the distillery it will increase our capacity to rapidly expand.”

“Our expectation is that The Quiet Man from the city of Derry will become an internationally-recognised premium product,” he added.

Dairy firm LacPatrick’s British trade up as Brexit looms.

LacPatrick has just invested £30m in new facilities at its plant in Artigarvan, County Londonderry

LacPatrick has just invested £30m in new facilities at its plant in Artigarvan, County Londonderry

A leading Northern Ireland dairy firm has seen its trade with Britain grow by almost a third as companies there reposition for Brexit.

LacPatrick has just invested £30m in new facilities at its plant in Artigarvan, County Tyrone. It said big name food firms based in Britain had begun to source ingredients from it. Businesses involved in the manufacture of chocolate, biscuits and sauces have all been in touch. All are large consumers of dairy powder ingredients.

Previously, they would have imported them from EU countries including the Republic of Ireland.
LacPatrick chief executive Gabriel D’Arcy said a bid to manage risk around tariffs post-Brexit was prompting UK firms to look at sourcing dairy produce from UK manufacturers. LacPatrick has traditionally sent milk powder from its Artigarvan plant to markets in west Africa and the Middle East.

That is currently done under EU trade agreements with those countries. Mr D’Arcy acknowledged there was a risk that his firm could lose access to those markets if the agreements could not be replicated by the UK after Brexit.
But he said he hoped that any transitional arrangements agreed with the EU would include trade deals.
In any event, he said, he was confident that there was a ready market in Great Britain for Northern Ireland dairy products.

“If it comes to it, we have an outlet for every single molecule of the milk we produce and process within the GB and UK markets,” he said. LacPatrick collects 500 million litres of milk in Northern Ireland a year.

The £30m investment in new drying facilities at Artigarvan means it can now process all of that locally without the need to send NI milk to its plants across the border for treatment. That reduces concerns around tariffs and other non tariff barriers post brexit. The company says it is the biggest investment by a dairy company on a single site in a generation.

In coming days they’re inviting the 700 farmers who supply them and some of their international customers to tour the plant, which employs 70 staff. The new equipment will allow it to produce new products such as long life ingredients for vending machines in Japan and a “just add water” powder which is used to make instant liquid milk and is popular in the Middle East.

The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey Expands To New Markets.

Quietman Irish Whiskey

Quietman Irish Whiskey

Niche Drinks in Northern Ireland has won business in Russia worth £340,000 for its Irish whiskey, The Quiet Man, as well its Irish cream liqueurs.

Based in Derry, Niche Drinks is building a new distillery for whiskey and other spirits on a site near the city, once home to Ireland’s largest whiskey business.

The new distillery is expected to begin producing spirit in mid 2018. It will be the first distillery in Derry for more than a century.

The Quiet Man company, owned and run by Ciaran Mulgrew, the managing director of Niche Drinks, has been selling whiskey for over a year and currently exports to around 40 markets worldwide including the US where the whiskey is distributed by Luxco, a marketing business which owns the Saint Brendan’s Irish Cream Liqueur brand that is produced at Niche Drinks in Derry.

Robin Young, finance director and company secretary of Niche Drinks, commenting on the latest exports, says: “We are very happy with our success to date. Our long term growth plans are progressing well and we continue to focus on building our export sales, particularly in the U.S and Europe markets.

“We recently secured our first Russian orders for our Quiet Man Irish Whiskey and both Causeway Coast and Shannon’s Irish Cream Liqueurs as a result of a visit to Russia at the beginning of this year and we continue to build distribution in the market there.”

The Quiet Man has won a series of international awards for its single malts and premium blend.

The new state–of–the–art distillery will feature a purpose–built visitors’ centre on the site, which is located at Ebrington Square on the outskirts of Derry city. It will shortly begin installation of two pot stills and is among a new generation of whiskey producers emerging across Ireland.

Northern Ireland currently has two whiskey distilleries – Old Bushmills in county Antrim and Echlinville in county Down. A further three are in the pipeline as the rebirth of the Irish whiskey gathers momentum.