In response to claims of “negative discrimination” by SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood, Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest Northern Ireland said: “To make such a claim is unfounded and inflammatory. Invest NI works to promote all of Northern Ireland and does not positively or negatively discriminate in favour of any one area.
“Between 2007 and 2012, across Londonderry, Limavady, Coleraine and Strabane council areas Invest NI made over 1,900 offers totalling £69.7million of support to local and external companies. This resulted in almost 3,500 new and safe guarded jobs and over £250 million pounds of investment commitments. We have also invested over £5.5m in supporting council initiatives in the north west under the Local Economic Development measures, part funded by European Regional Development Fund.
“We continue to proactively work with Councils in the north west and very specifically, Derry City Council, to support them in the development of their sales pitch to potential investors. Invest NI is fully committed to supporting the successful implementation of the regeneration plan (One Plan) for the city region and continues to work closely with all stakeholders to do this.
“When staff from our network of international offices were back in Northern Ireland earlier this month we took them to the north west to specifically meet with stakeholders and large employers to learn more about the key messages the city has to offer. And earlier in the year we held a very successful event in the Guildhall in London promoting the north west to over 400 attendees. We are proactively following up on enquiries that came out of that event.
“Mr Eastwood continually claims that Invest NI should proactively direct investors to the north west. However, as highlighted in the 2012 Audit Office report ‘Invest NI cannot direct investors to specific areas’ and ‘businesses’ location decisions are primarily based on their own criteria’. What we can do, is offer higher levels of assistance to investment and job creation projects locating outside of Belfast. However, to force an investor to locate in a specific area would be highly detrimental to our ability to attract investment to Northern Ireland – which would have wide reaching implications.
“In addition to the above we have been working with stakeholders in Londonderry to specifically indentify areas of opportunity – such as the creative industries – to help them build a hub for businesses that will in turn attract future investors. We have also created a mobile app which councils can tailor and use to promote their area – again we would encourage all councils to use this tool to help them sell themselves to investors.
“We have met local representatives from all parties on many occasions to address their concerns and help find ways of working together for the good of their constituents, the local area, and ultimately the Northern Ireland economy. I will continue to offer an open door to any MLA, or local representative that wishes to discuss local issues, and hope that we can work together for the benefit of local businesses and increased investment in their area.”