Wrightbus chief on new ‘energy commission’

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell is pictured at Ballymena bus builder Wrightbus with  Mark Nodder (Wrightbus), William Wright (Wrightbus) and Steven Francey (Wrightbus).'Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell is pictured at Ballymena bus builder Wrightbus with Mark Nodder (Wrightbus), William Wright (Wrightbus) and Steven Francey (Wrightbus).'Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

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The man who leads Wrightbus has been appointed to a special science and industry team established to help achieve the best value energy costs for Northern Ireland’s manufacturing industry.

Chief Executive Mark Nodder has been appointed to the ‘Energy and Manufacturing Advisory Group’ only weeks after it was announced that the giant Michelin plant outside Ballymena was to close with the loss of hundreds of jobs. At the time Northern Ireland’s high energy costs were partly blamed for the closure.

Announcing the establishment of the group, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said a strong, flourishing manufacturing sector was at the centre of the Executive’s vision for the Northern Ireland economy.

He continued: “Recent job losses have shown that there is no room for complacency when it comes to manufacturing. 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.”

He said that the group would be supported by the Ulster University Business School and would draw on expertise from across manufacturing and the energy sector to work together to find solutions.

“Companies themselves are best placed to find effective energy solutions and strategies that work for them. I wish the group well and I look forward to receiving its report in the new year.”

The Energy and Manufacturing Advisory Group membership is as follows: Chair: David Dobbin (Dale Farm). Members: Declan Billington (Thompsons), Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI), Bill Maginnis (NI Advisor on Employment and Skills), Mark Nodder (Wrightbus), Jackie Pollock (Unite), Mark Sweeney (Board Member, Invest NI), Carla Tully (AES). Observers: Robin McCormick (SONI), Nicholas Tarrant (NIEN).