‘I won’t single out city for FDI’ - Foster
JOBS Minister Arlene Foster is refusing to single out unemployment blackspots like Londonderry for targeted investment arguing that in order to compete with big nation states she has to concentrate on selling Northern Ireland as a whole.
Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood suggested she follow the example of her Dublin counterpart in committing to locate 50 per cent of all foreign investment outside major urban concentrations. South of the border the commitment by the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is to target half of all investment outside Dublin and Cork.
But Mrs Foster ruled this out saying Invest NI needs to work for the province as a whole.
She even suggested high quality investment in places like Belfast benefitted Londonderry as well.
“Invest NI has a very successful track record in attracting high quality inward investment and I am firmly of the opinion that this investment provides benefits to the whole of Northern Ireland, not just to the area in which the investment is located,” she claimed.
She said it was important to understand the investment process and how this relates to what the various parts of Northern Ireland have to offer.
“A potential investor will make a decision about where to locate based on the specific requirements of the project,” she explained. “These requirements typically include the availability of a skilled workforce, cost competitiveness, the presence of existing sectoral clusters, availability of suitable property and other infrastructure related issues.”
She said some areas suit foreign investors better than others and that the responsibility of developing a favourable landscape for potential employers fell across Departments.
“This results in a perceived disparity in where investment is located,” she said. “Any attempt to assign Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) targets on a sub-regional basis will potentially result in Invest NI trying to direct investors to locations that do not meet their needs.”
She added: “However, as noted by the Independent Review of Economic Policy, it is crucial to allow companies the scope to locate where they can operate most profitably. To do otherwise would jeopardise the chances of securing the investment for Northern Ireland.”
During the summer the Sentinel reported how Londonderry received just five per cent of Invest NI’s total financial assistance during the course of last year.
This is in spite of the company possessing a huge landbank in the city, which could potentially be used to lure investors to the North West.
Invest NI continues to hold 105 acres of land - four times the area of the Walled City - for businesses with an immediate “demonstrable property need” in Londonderry.
The landbank is the largest held by the local industrial development agency in any council area bar Craigavon, where it holds 177.70 acres.
However, subsidising large multinationals with public money does not always result in a happy ending.
Last fortnight the Sentinel revealed that the firms responsible for the two worst instances of redundancies in Northern Ireland in recent years were amongst the biggest recipients of dole outs from Invest NI over the past decade.
Whilst FG Wilson blamed market conditions for its announcement of over 700 job losses recently, the firm - like Seagate, which closed its Limavady plant in 2008 with almost 1,000 redundancies - has been sheltered from market discipline here through public dole outs.
The paper revealed that whilst the beleaguered engineering firm received £8m in public money in 2005/6, between 2002 and 2010 Seagate received more money in state assistance than any other firm in Northern Ireland.
The FG Wilson jobs blow followed Mrs Foster’s revelation that the amount of benefit claimants in Londonderry in August rose from 8.5 per cent to 8.7 per cent of working age people and in Strabane it rose from 7.3 per cent to 7.4 per cent. Dole queues remained static in Limavady at 7.1 per cent in August.
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Weather for Londonderry
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west