MORE GOOD NEWS AT BELVIEW

Smartply’s €60 million expansion at the Port of Waterford in Belview, which was effectively re-announced on Friday last following the commencement of expansion works at the plant in January 2015, is, nonetheless an encouraging development.

It’s a sign of confidence in the future of the business, the Port itself and the south east economy on the whole, a company producing a dividend for both Waterford and Kilkenny.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed was in Belview on Friday last to see how the upgrade of the facility, which includes the development of a new Coillte Panel Products Innovation Centre, is proceeding.

Significant new machinery has also been installed at the plant to enhance its product portfolio, likely to secure its status as one of the region’s most prominent exporters.

We understand that the investment decision was taken over three years ago, when we’re in the thick of austerity.

However, significant lobbying from local TD John Paul Phelan (FG), Councillor Tomás Breathnach (Lab) and workers’ representatives helped in the delivery of this significant upgrade.

According to Coillte: “This investment of €59m in our SmartPly manufacturing centre is part of a strategy to develop innovative new products and enable the company to increase sales in existing and new markets,”

“For our suppliers, including farmers and private forestry growers, the new facility provides a long-term destination for pulp wood from forest thinning, as well as underpinning Coillte’s own supply to SmartPly.”

The new press line will be capable of making a variety of products for the construction industry, and it’s great to see such a major investment, just a short drive from the multi-million Glanbia plant at Belview.

Both showcase plants demonstrate positive investment in the area, and let’s hope that, in addition to the Port of Waterford’s plans for growth, that further good headlines await our writing in the immediate and long-term future.

With 2,000 jobs reliant on forestry in the State, and 360 of those based at Smartply (and further regional employment at Medite in Clonmel), and with 10 per cent of Irish land under forestry, what’s being put in place in Belview looks as sustainable as it is productive. And that percentage is significant – higher than many European Union Member States – giving us a key advantage in this particular market.

And the south east, as a producer of the plant’s raw material, is also significant, added Tramore native and Coillte Chief Executive Fergal Leamy.

Coillte is chaired by former Glanbia CEO John Moloney and it’s great to see the south east providing such an input to the industry.

The State will benefit from Coillte’s profit dividend and it’s worth pointing out that this development was secured without any taxpayers’ money being invested – and the co-operation of staff is worth noting.

We should encourage the growth of further trees across Ireland, which could only lead to further domestic timber use in construction both here and abroad. Coillte is to be commended for demonstrating such vision.

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