During 2015/16 our support helped businesses promote 5,500 new jobs across Northern Ireland, exceeding our target by nearly 40 per cent.
68 per cent of our support for job creation was to locally owned companies. We helped support a number of local businesses with significant expansion projects, including a £6.8m investment by Cookstown based CDE Global, creating 110 new jobs, a £4m investment by Bloc Blinds in Magherafelt with 93 new jobs to be created over the next three years and 87 new jobs by McAuley in Ballymoney.
During 2015/16 6,700 jobs were created as a result of our support for projects in previous years.
Helping attract new investors to Northern Ireland is another key part of our strategy to support the growth of the local economy. According to the fDi Intelligence report European Cities and Regions of the Future 2016/17 Northern Ireland has the highest FDI jobs per capita of all UK regions.
During 2015/16 we welcomed 20 new foreign investors to Northern Ireland, including US owned OneSource Virtual to Londonderry, with plans to create 289 new jobs by the end of 2017, and 320 jobs in Craigavon by Republic of Ireland based Eishtec.
Where new jobs are being created is often a focus, with a misperception that more jobs are secured for Belfast than elsewhere in Northern Ireland – however, the evidence is that this is anything but the case. For the last five years, consistently more jobs have been promoted outside Belfast than in. This year, 78 per cent of the new jobs that businesses plan to create are outside Belfast, the highest percentage for the last five years.
It is true, however, that Belfast is seen as a hub for certain sectors – such as technology and software development. According to FT fDi Markets, Belfast is the number one destination globally for financial technology investment, and is Europe’s leading destination for new software development. As a result this year we have seen a number of new US investors choose the city as the base for their European operations, including cyber security firm Alert Logic, financial services technology company Hanweck Associates, and most recently digital publishing platform HighWire which announced its plans to establish its Technical Support and Development centre in Belfast creating 74 new jobs.
We also provide advice, guidance and financial assistance towards investment in research and development, the development of skills within an existing workforce, and towards activity that will help increase exports.
During 2015/16 we helped secure almost £40m of investment in skills. One example of a significant investment in people is the nearly £9m investment in a skills and development programme by Moy Park.
Investment in research and development, and wider innovation, is also crucial to meeting the ever change needs of the customer, and to being able to compete in a global market. During 2015/16, our support helped secure £70m of investment in research and development, surpassing our target by 55 per cent.
Local company Brookvent is an example of a business with a long history of new product development. It has availed of our support to help develop products to reach new markets, growing its customer base.
Northern Ireland manufacturing exports grew by 9.1 per cent in 2015/16, out-performing the other UK countries, and exceeding the 3 per cent target.
One of our largest exports is food and drink, and in 2015 accounted for £1bn of exports from Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland’s reputation for the quality and provenance of its food is seeing our local produce in demand in countries such as China and the United Arab Emirates, as well as across Europe.
Through our Access to Finance funds we have helped a wide range of companies access much needed funding to either start their business, or invest for growth. In the past year 177 deals, with 166 individual businesses, delivered total investment of £30m.
We also introduced two new funds, the Agri-food Loan Scheme and the Sustainable Utilisation of Poultry Litter scheme, this year. These funds are to specifically support the agri-food sector and have made four deals amounting to £9.6m.
While the Executive finalises the detail around the new Programme for Government, an interim set of targets has been agreed for Invest NI which will provide focus to its work to support business and economic growth.
In addition, a target to grow exports for 2016-17 will be set shortly.
Announcing these targets, Minister Hamilton said: “These targets include stimulating employment opportunities by supporting businesses with projects that will promote between 4,000 and 6,000 new jobs. Between 2,600 and 3,200 of these jobs are to be from indigenous business growth. Other important measures will be to encourage increased investment in skills, R&D and wider innovation to ensure businesses remain competitive in a global market and identify and exploit opportunities to grow their sales to markets outside Northern Ireland.”