Visiting Newry today, Economy Minister Arlene Foster recognised the work of Invest NI in helping the local area to realise its economic potential.
The minister met local stakeholders at Invest NI’s Southern Regional Office and highlighted the half a billion pounds of investment secured by Invest NI for the Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down and Newry & Mourne council areas.
Speaking during the visit, the minister said: “Since its inception in 2002, Invest NI has offered over £109 million of assistance to 2,659 business projects located in the catchment area of its Southern Regional Office. This has resulted in planned investment totalling £556.13 million.
“Businesses right across the five council areas of Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down and Newry & Mourne have added significantly to the success and vibrancy of the Northern Ireland economy as a whole. There is a deep pool of entrepreneurial spirit and activity in these areas.
“Locally-owned companies, such as the Almac Group, Norbrook Pharmaceuticals and Thompson Solutions, are succeeding in international markets by utilising innovative methods and leading edge technology. All are benefiting from the excellent skills base and the steady flow of graduates from the local universities.
“Invest NI has over 500 clients in the region, with 261 being managed directly from the Southern Regional Office. The close relationship that exists between the organisation and its clients has certainly been a catalyst for the establishment and growth of many successful ventures here.
“This is evidenced by the significant level of business start-ups, focussing on both local and export markets, which Invest NI has supported. Indeed, the rate of start-up activity in the region is higher than the Northern Ireland average. Newly established small companies, such as Garden Escapes and Blue Tree Services, are prospering and growing alongside more established SMEs like Tribal Helm Corporation and JK Fabrications with help from Invest NI.
“The five council areas, with their strategic location on the North-South corridor, have also been attractive propositions for major foreign direct investment. In the last six years, Invest NI has secured 22 inward investment projects, from investors of the calibre of BE Aerospace. In total these will promote1,760 new jobs and safeguard many more.
“Furthermore, the international newspaper and communications firm Independent News and Media chose the recent US-NI Investment Conference to announce a £7million investment to expand its Newry printing operation.”
Arlene Foster concluded: “It is encouraging to note that there is a strong level of R&D and innovation activity within companies in the Southern Regional Office area. Invest NI has helped to stimulate this, with financial support worth almost £29million being offered towards investments totalling over £81million.
“As set out in Invest NI’s new Corporate Plan for 2008 to 2011, this kind of investment is integral to achieving business growth and will increasingly form a cornerstone of the economic strategy for Northern Ireland as a whole.”