Everything possible must be done to find a solution to combat energy costs for the manufacturing sector, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has claimed.
Announcing the establishment of an Energy and Manufacturing Advisory Group in the , the Minster said a strong manufacturing sector was at the centre of the Executive’s vision for the Northern Ireland economy.
The formation of the new group, to be chaired by Dale Farm chief David Dobbin, comes after the recent decision by Michelin to close its Ballymena plant citing energy costs one of the detemining factors at the cost of more than 800 jobs.
The group’s membership comprises Declan Billington, MD of animal feed processor Thompsons, Stephen Kelly, CEO of Manufacturing NI, Bill Maginnis, NI advisor on Employment and Skills, Mark Nodder, Wright Group CEO, Jackie Pollockof Unite, Mark Sweeney, Invest NI board member and Carla Tully, president UK&Ireland of energy group AES.
Its terms are to review the evidence on the effect of energy costs on the competitiveness of manufacturing industry and identify effective policies, strategies and examples of industry good practice in reducing those costs.
It is due to report by March 1, next year.
“Recent job losses have shown that there is no room for complacency when it comes to manufacturing,” said Mr Bell.
“While we are doing well in the small to medium end, we need to ensure that large manufacturers can flourish and improve their efficiency in Northern Ireland.
“While the focus has been on big job losses, it should be noted that 830 jobs were added during the last quarter, bringing the total number of manufacturing jobs to over 80,000 for the first time since 2008.
“Energy remains a significant challenge for manufacturing.
“While costs have fallen over the last 12 to 18 months and are now at a six year low in Northern Ireland, they have also fallen for our competitors so there is more to be done.
“Our job in government is to put the policies and strategies in place to support manufacturing but finding the solution to energy costs starts within manufacturing itself.
“That is why today I am announcing the establishment of the Energy and Manufacturing Advisory Group, which I am delighted to say David Dobbin has agreed to chair.
“Under his leadership, and supported by Ulster University Business School, expertise from across manufacturing and the energy sector will work together to find solutions.
“I wish the group well and I look forward to receiving its report in the new year.”