Telecom house not a factor for FDI firms
ONLY a quarter of first time inward investors said Project Kelvin was an important factor in attracting them here whilst the location of various investments were not linked to ‘points of presence’ such as the Telecommunications House at Fort George, according to an Invest NI survey.
The findings fly in the face of claims by a vocal lobby of politicians and media in Londonderry who campaigned for the Project Kelvin ‘telecommunications house’ to be located in the city in order to boost jobs and investment.
DUP Investment Minister Arlene Foster said companies told Invest NI they didn’t really care about points of presence.
She stated: “The survey also found that the investment location was not linked to a Project Kelvin point of presence and that, in all cases, other factors (including availability of skilled labour, availability of office space, other infrastructure related issues, presence of an existing sectoral cluster etc.) contributed to the location decision.”
East Londonderry MLA Gregory Campbell had asked the Minister to what extent Project Kelvin had featured in persuading inward investment companies to locate to Northern Ireland.
She stated: “Invest NI uses the benefits of the region’s world class telecoms infrastructure, including the transatlantic link provided by Project Kelvin, to promote Northern Ireland as an attractive and viable location for new inward investment opportunities, and to secure additional projects from existing international investors.
“While Invest NI does not hold information on which companies have chosen to take advantage of the transatlantic link, the agency has conducted an informal survey to assess the extent to which Project Kelvin was important to investment decisions.
“The survey found that, between going fully operational in Spring 2010 until the end of Financial year 2011-12, approximately 25 per cent of first time investors rated the transatlantic link as either crucial to their investment decision or a contributing factor.”
She added: “Invest NI will continue to use the Northern Ireland’s telecoms infrastructure, including the benefits that Project Kelvin provides, to sell the region as a place to do business.”
The Minister played down the importance of Kelvin in the eyes of foreign investors just months after Londonderry’s ‘Digital Champion’ Mark Nagurski said the transatlantic cable with its telecommunications house at Fort George would not have a direct impact on the amount of digital start-up companies created in the city.
“Project Kelvin is a tremendous positive,” he said. “Will it have a direct impact on the number of start-up companies? Probably not. My position is that it is a fantastic potential attractor for larger foreign direct investment (FDI) projects, and some local companies may grow into it.
“However, I do not think that it is fundamental to the number of start-up companies. People have not looked at Project Kelvin and said that they must now start a business,” said Mr Nagurksi in a briefing session at Stormont.
Back in 2009 the Sentinel reported how a bewildered Hibernia Atlantic representative - the firm behind Project Kelvin - had struggled to get his head around the uproar surrounding the divisive location of the telecommunications house - an unmanned portable container - during a lengthy public row over the facility.
Assembly records show that Derek Bullock, Vice President of Network Operations Hibernia Atlantic, was drafted in to field questions from the Stormont Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment as the row over the proposed location of the telecommunications house reached its deafening height.
During a lengthy grilling by the committee - chaired by the then Foyle MLA Mark Durkan - Mr Bullock suggested he couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about.
He commented: “I do not fully understand the controversy behind this tele-house, but perhaps that is naivety on my part. As I said, we operate globally, and the points of presence are the points that matter, as that is where one connects into the system.
“What is important is the equipment that is in there, the services that can be offered, and how well it can be marketed and promoted within the regions. Every single town that we are connecting to has exactly the same transmission equipment.”
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