Our direct support towards creating new jobs continues to be the one performance measure that receives the most profile. However, in reality every offer of support we make – whether it’s support for an R&D project that leads to a new product, or help with exporting that leads to increased sales – has the potential to create new jobs.
One of the biggest projects we supported during the year was the £57m investment by Seagate – the 3rd largest R&D project we have ever supported. Over recent years our support for the company has focussed on R&D projects. Supporting projects like these has helped the company grow here, now employing 1,400 people at its Springtown facility in Londonderry.
As our key performance data shows, those customers we work closest with created over 9,000 new jobs last year. And based on the job announcements we made during the year, we are confident we will continue to see strong job creation in the coming years, right across Northern Ireland.
Notable projects included a 125 new jobs by Downpatrick based Finnebrogue , the 600 person expansion by FinTru across Londonderry (305) and Belfast (300), 100 jobs by Terex in Campsie as part of a £12m investment in a new manufacturing facility and 211 jobs in Newry by STATSports .
We also supported some sizeable new inward investment projects during 2018/19, adding to the number of foreign owned businesses operating in Northern Ireland, which now stands at 1,025.
Companies choosing to invest here for the first time during 2018/19 included:
During the year we helped 335 existing exporters to reach new markets, 175 of which were selling outside Northern Ireland for the first time.
Our support towards growing exports is helping companies win business in new markets. Edge Innovate , for example, recently won a new export order worth £750,000 in Oman. Kiverco won its first export success in Italy, in a six figure deal, and TriMedica secured four contracts in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, after joining us at the Medica trade fair.
Other key deliverables
As a result of this positive outturn, two years in to our strategy, we are well on track to delivering our four year outcomes.
On jobs, we are currently 2/3rds of the way to reaching the lower end of our target range. With the number of employment related projects supported this year, and a healthy pipeline of future job creation I have confidence that we will continue this positive trend.
Increasing sales outside of NI is so important to our economy. So to find ourselves already exceeding the lower end of our target ranges across external sales and exports is a really great achievement.
The achievements of our customers over the last two years is very encouraging, especially considering the challenging conditions they are doing business in. However, while not wishing to downplay this achievement, we cannot be complacent when it comes to trade. The value of these sales and exports is heavily impacted by external factors beyond anyone’s control – global conditions and currency fluctuations, for example can have a significant impact on sales and exports figures. So while we are currently showing as having achieved these targets we must remain conscious that this could change depending on future years’ performance.
Our progress towards our targets really is a great achievement, especially when you consider all the external factors and extenuating circumstances. It places us in a strong position for the remaining period of this business strategy and I am confident we will continue in this positive vein.