A FLAGSHIP North-East glass maker has trebled its manufacturing capacity with the installation of a new £1.5m production line.

Nine months after it was rescued from administration following a cash crisis, Romag, one of only two firms in the UK to assemble photovoltaic (pv) panels, said the latest investment was a sign of its growing confidence.

At the start os the year, Romag shares were suspended from trading on the Stock Exchange after it emerged that ex-chairman John Kennair had made a £3.97m payment to one of the firm's divisions without informing the board.

Wearside-based housing developer Gentoo secured the future of all 161 staff at Romag's factory in Leadgate, near Consett when it bought the firm in March. An additional 20 workers have been recruited since then as the business has gradually rebuilt its reputation and agreed deals with new customers.

The new production line will increase the quantity of products that the firm is able to produce by significantly speeding up the process and improving the quality and consistency of its solar pv panels.

Phil Murray, managing director of Romag, said: "This investment will allow us to be more responsive to our customers needs.

"It is a clear demonstration of our commitment to both our manufacturing plant here in County Durham and the future of this industry."

This week, the Government cut solar subsidies - so-called Feed in Tariffs - by more than a half which prompted fears across the industry that jobs and investment in the burgeoning sector was at risk. Romag, however, reckoned the company's prospects looked bright.

"The cuts to Feed in Tariffs will have an impact on our customers but we were well aware that this move was on the horizon and have planned accordingly," added Mr Murray. "Our only major concern was the timing of the Government announcement which gave us only six weeks to complete orders to our customers so they could benefit from the original tariff.

"We are confident that there is a strong future for pv moving forward regardless, as evidenced by this investment, and can see that against a backdrop of ever increasing fuel prices it still makes perfect sense to invest in solar and benefit from free electricity.

"We are a thriving business with new customers coming on board all of the time because they value a British-made supplier."

The company also hoped to secure new customers for its bullet and blast proof glass.

On cutting the ribbon to mark the start of production on the new line Coun Neil Foster, said: "Romag is a shining example of the type of advance manufacturing that will sustain jobs in County Durham to support the rebalancing of the economy. This investment by Romag is a vote of confidence in the continued success of the company."