As we approach the end of the first year of the new council areas – Derry and Strabane and the Causeway Coast & Glens – it is timely to take stock of the work that is ongoing in the north-west to develop the region economically.
Under local government reform, Derry & Strabane District Council and Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council have greater responsibilities for economic development.
As a statutory partner, Invest NI is proactively contributing to the councils’ community plans and the economic briefings we have delivered on each region have been valuable resources for the councils as they identify their areas of focus and goals for economic growth.
These community plans will play a central role in developing the economy of the north-west, ensuring that the region aligns its efforts to make the most of sectors with high growth potential - life and health sciences, advanced engineering and creative and digital – and addresses any areas of weakness. They are particularly important against the backdrop of a changing landscape for economic development and a challenging business environment.
We have been working closely with the Chambers of Commerce and other local stakeholders to build on the strong business base in the north-west. This is evident in the support we have secured for local companies, and new inward investments secured for the region. These include Convergys creating 333 jobs in Londonderry, Metaverse Mod Squad creating 100 new jobs in the city and, most recently, Texas-based OneSource Virtual which will create 289 new jobs by 2017.
Invest NI support in the north-west totalled almost £54million over the four-year period (2011-2015) and secured £246 million of investment for the area. As well as support for job creation it included support to help businesses grow, export and develop new products. This kind of assistance translates into business success such as the £7.3million investment by McColgan’s in Strabane, the expansion by the Dowds Group in Ballymoney and Nu Print Technologies in Londonderry, which together are creating 67 jobs, and a combined investment of £3million by seven Causeway Coast & Glens based businesses creating 51 new jobs, which Enterprise, Trade & Investment Minister Jonathan Bell announced in January 2016.
Such investments reflect that, while there is a commonly held view that Belfast is the focus of job creation in Northern Ireland, the figures do not support this. In fact, 72 per cent of the 28,000 jobs created with Invest NI support over the four-year Programme for Government period (2011–2015) were within businesses located outside Belfast, almost 3,500 of which were in the north-west.
Performance data for 2014 also showed that, of NI supported businesses, North West companies had a higher than average rate of productivity per employee - highlighting the impact of Invest NI’s support in the region.
MJM Group’s recent purchase of the Shackleton site is also good news for Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector and is an investment which has potential to deliver huge social and economic benefits across the North West.
Building exports remains a key focus and the implementation of DETI’s Export Action Plan - Export Matters, will help to encourage companies in Northern Ireland to be active and successful in selling in global markets. Invest NI will drive the export action plan forward in this region and seek to assist those firms who are already competing successfully overseas as well as supporting new exporters in order to increase and diversify our export base.
Working with the councils, Chambers of Commerce, colleges and enterprise bodies in the region, we will continue to support the growth of the economy in the north-west.