BUSINESS is booming at a Greenock electronics factory thanks to a £14 million cash boost announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon was in town yesterday to unveil a massive funding package for Diodes Incorporated - formerly Texas Instruments (TI) - at the firm's Earnhill Road semiconductor plant.

The £13.7m grant, from government agency Scottish Enterprise, will go towards upgrading the factory and equipment, research and development of new products and training the 300-strong workforce.

Inverclyde Council is pumping in a further £170,000.

As revealed by the Tele in October last year, Diodes is also investing £30m of its own money as part of a five-year transformation plan, taking the total spend to over £47m.

The plant, which has been in Greenock since the early 1970s, is a wafer fabrication facility producing delicate silicon microchips found in everything from mobile phones and laptops to cars and machinery around the world.

It was on the verge of closure until Diodes came forward in April last year to buy the plant after former owners TI decided to move production to more 'cost-effective' sites abroad.

Ms Sturgeon told the Tele: "I'm impressed with what goes on here and the investment is helping the research and development that will ensure that this plant stays at the cutting-edge of the work that they are engaged in.

"If we cast our minds back to not so long ago when the then-Texas Instruments was facing closure, everybody understood the devastating impact that would have on this part of Scotland, so to be standing here today celebrating investment into the company and to celebrate the fact a new generation has the prospect of valuable, fulfilling careers in here is something to feel very happy about."

Diodes made a record $120m profit last year but the FM defended the decision to give the American company taxpayers' money.

Ms Sturgeon said: "This investment from Scottish Enterprise - and Scottish Enterprise very carefully considers all investments of this nature - is about supporting research and development and training of the staff who work here or who will work here in the future.

"Fundamentally, it's about protecting 300 jobs in this area, it's about protecting a plant that's been operational here for decades and enabling it to continue to provide the cutting-edge research and technology that it already does. "To have these high-value jobs here in such a cutting-edge industry is really important for this part of Scotland and the country overall.

"The world we live in today and the nature of the global economy, we need to be competing at the top end and that's exactly what a company like this is doing, so supporting that leaves a legacy here long into the future and I would hope helps to operate as a magnet for other types of investment of this nature."

Closure of the plant would have cost 300 jobs at the Larkfield factory and a further 200-300 posts indirectly through the supply chain.

Council leader Stephen McCabe, who chaired a council-government task force to help save the factory, said: "It was a long haul. I don't think we ever gave up hope, we continued to hope even when things were looking as if we weren't going to find a buyer.

"We kept working with the government and with the company to find potential buyers and very fortunately Diodes came up and I think it's been a true testimony to the partnership working between the government and the council - and the various government agencies - that we've been able to secure the long-term future of this plant.

"The key challenge for us in terms of saving the plant was to provide long-term job opportunities for our young people and to see the apprenticeship scheme now up and running again and a bright future ahead is fantastic."

Among the new generation of highly-skilled staff at the wafer fab facility are former apprentices Caitlin Kirk and Ross MacDonald, both 22, who are now qualified maintenance technicians, and new trainee, Aimee Cooke, 19.

All three are from Greenock.

Managing director Gerry McCarthy, who has worked at the plant for nearly 40 years, said: "We've already restarted our apprenticeship programme and now we have seven modern apprentices with hopefully the same number again this year.

"The investment here is massive for the area.

"It has reinvigorated 300 high-value jobs."

The support to Diodes follows the government's takeover of Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, which was concluded in December and safeguarded around 300 staff.