WE ARE ‘THE POOR RELATION’

INVEST Northern Ireland has offered companies in North Antrim almost £23 million of support over the past five years which has secured close to £113m of investment commitments, it has been revealed this week.

The news is in response to comments made by two local politicians in relation to job creation in the Ballymoney and Moyle areas.

TUV leader, Jim Allister, and DUP Councillor, John Finlay, both rounded on Invest NI, with Mr. Allister stating that North Antrim is the ‘poor relation’ when it comes to efforts to attracting jobs.

Last week, Cllr. Finlay, who is Chair of the Council’s Development Committee, hit out at the Government and called on them to make Ballymoney one of its priority areas.

In their statement, Invest NI said: “As well as securing plans to create 680 new jobs, a significant proportion of the support is focused on helping these companies to become more competitive by growing exports, engaging in new product development and safeguarding existing jobs.

“Invest NI does facilitate visits by inward investors across NI but visit locations are determined solely by the needs of the project. Visits cannot be directly linked to specific investment projects and visits are not necessarily required by investors who already have a base in Northern Ireland and are seeking to expand.

“Invest NI is committed to working in partnership with local stakeholders to support and encourage investment in all regions.

“Ultimately it is the investor who decides where to locate their investment project, not Invest NI, and their decision is based on a number of factors including if there is an existing company location, skills, transport links and infrastructure.”

North Antrim MLA Allister said he was astounded at the figures regarding the lack of foreign investors visiting his constituency over the past five years compared to other areas of Northern Ireland.

Mr Allister sought details in the Assembly about the number of jobs created in each constituency on foot of Invest Northern Ireland’s efforts over the last five years, and the number of foreign investors they had brought to visit each constituency.

He said the figures revealed that from 2006-2010 not a single foreign investor was introduced to North Antrim, though over the same period 805 visits had been arranged to other parts of Northern Ireland.

It was only in 2010/11 that for the first time in five years Invest NI brought a foreign investor to visit North Antrim when two visits took place out of a total of 181 across Northern Ireland.

Mr Allister said: “These are astounding figures and a huge indictment of Invest NI.

“How can it be that with our willing and skilled workforce Invest NI only thought it worth its while to arrange two visits in five years, while the constituency of the First Minister, Peter Robinson, had 47?

“Indeed of the total visits over five years, two thirds went to Belfast.

“Why has North Antrim been let down in this way, while over the same period we haemorrhaged jobs, particularly in Ballymoney?

“Little wonder, then, when we turn to how many jobs Invest NI created in each constituency, that we find North Antrim was again a poor relation.

“Over the five years it is claimed 24,612 jobs were created across Northern Ireland, but only 680 of them in North Antrim, a mere 2.5%, while East Belfast topped the list with 3392 new jobs, Arlene Foster’s constituency got 1716 jobs and Martin McGuinness’ 1429.

“Why has North Antrim been so neglected and denied our fair share of economic growth?

“I do not intend to let this matter rest, but will be seeking urgent explanation from DETI and Invest NI.

“North Antrim when it comes to skills and those willing and able to work is no Cinderella, so why have we been by-passed?”