Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has announced a £7m investment at its factories in Northern Ireland.
The firm, which is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives, shed more than 750 jobs last year.
Currently the firm only makes generators at its plants in Northern Ireland but the investment will go towards developing the skills required to manufacture material-handling vehicles for Caterpillar’s Industrial and Waste Group, which are used in the scrap metal and forestry industries.
Development of the vehicles will start in the middle of next year, creating up to 100 jobs – some of which will be new roles, while others will involve re-training existing workers.
Invest Northern Ireland has contributed £1m towards the development, while the Department of Employment and Learning has handed over £220,000 through its Assured Skills Programme.
Caterpillar Northern Ireland operations director Robert Kennedy said: "All Caterpillar Northern Ireland locations will benefit through the diversification of manufacturing, enabling us to continue to develop the skills and expertise of our local workforce."
The announcement was made as the First and Deputy First Ministers visited Caterpillar's Chicago headquarters, where they met senior management. First Minister Peter Robinson described the investment as positive.
He said: "This is an extremely positive investment of £7m from one of Northern Ireland's most established engineering firms. The project is especially important as it has the potential to help attract additional projects from the wider Caterpillar family.
“This new project for Northern Ireland will also offer our local workforce the opportunity to develop key transferable skills that will add value to our manufacturing sector, bringing further economic benefit."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "The 100 quality manufacturing positions required to run the operation will generate salaries in the region of £2.2m annually, ensuring that existing employees and local people have an opportunity to progress high-value career development opportunities."
Caterpillar bought out Northern Ireland engineering firm FG Wilson, which makes diesel generator sets, in 1999. It has plants in west Belfast, Newtownabbey and Larne.