A Bellaghy company set up just a year ago with the help of Invest Northern Ireland’s Growth Start Programme has already exceeded its sales targets by some 20 per cent and is predicting further growth.

Connect Engineering, formed in April 2002 by Connor McGuckin and Brigid Duggan, has become a successful export-led business in the first year of its existence, selling 80 per cent of its range of excavator buckets to machinery dealers in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.

Sales in the current year already look likely to benefit substantially from a new product, Rotaconnect 360, that is the result of the company’s focus on innovation. The unique product enables mechanical diggers to operate in restricted spaces by tilting and rotating the excavator bucket, therefore increasing the efficiency of mechanical excavators.

The potential of Rotaconnect 360 was spotted at the influential Construction Plant exhibition in Dublin recently where it gained a Product of the Show Award.

Mr McGuckin, a University of Ulster mechanical engineering graduate, says: “With help and encouragement from various teams within INI, including technical, ICT and our Client Executive, we set up the business in rented premises in Tobermore and subsequently moved into a 7.500 sq ft factory in Bellaghy.

“Our objective has been to offer customers quality products at a good price which we support with fast and responsive service, and this has resulted in steady growth.”

The strength of business from the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain has meant the company, which currently employs 12 people, has already outgrown these premises.

Cheryl Chambers, client executive in Invest NI’s north west office comments: “Invest NI is keen to support new companies, like Connect Engineering, which are focused on export markets and which realise the importance of innovation in products and processes. We’ll continue to work closely with the company to help it further develop both its markets and its products.”

Supporting the establishment of new businesses is central to Invest NI’s recently launched Accelerating Entrepreneurship strategy, which aims to substantially increase entrepreneurial activity in Northern Ireland.