Wrightbus Group have confirmed that they have exchanged contracts for the purchase of the former JTI (Gallaher) site in nearby Lisnafillan.
The 100 acre site is set to become available in mid 2017 as JTI restructures its manufacturing operations in Europe. The transaction, details of which will remain undisclosed, is set to be completed early next year.
Commenting on the announcement, Wrights Group Chairman and CEO Mark Nodder OBE, 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, explained: “It is too early to outline specific plans for the Lisnafillan facility. However, securing the site for future use will allow us to look at a range of options, which could potentially include Advanced Engineering and R&D facilities that will help keep our products at the leading edge of, what is, a fast changing public transportation industry. 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.”
Wrights Group, who will this year celebrate the 70th anniversary of Robert Wright Coachworks setting up in business, has a long association with the town of Ballymena. This latest major investment is set to further strengthen the company’s ties with the locality.
Mark Nodder added: “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.”
Welcoming the purchase, JTI UK’s Engineering Director Greg McKinley, said; “Since the announcement of our factory closure, we have been exploring all opportunities to find a suitable buyer for our factory site. We are very pleased that Wrights Group has agreed to purchase the site and we look forward to working closely with them to complete the sale by mid 2017.”