A resilient, entrepreneurial and forward-thinking Western Region
Patricia Devine, Invest Northern Ireland’s Western Regional Manager, outlines the work that Invest NI and its enterprise partners have been doing to boost the economy in the western region.
The three councils that make up the western region have Northern Ireland’s highest entrepreneurial activity rate.
Across the four years of the Programme for Government (2011-2015), Invest NI offered £119 million of support to businesses in the western region which includes the council areas of Fermanagh & Omagh, Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon and Mid Ulster. This support has helped to create 7,587 new jobs and reflects a characteristic resilience in the people of this region, who despite difficult economic conditions continue to start and grow businesses. Indeed, the three councils that make up the western region have Northern Ireland’s highest entrepreneurial activity rate.
But building a robust business base takes not just ambitious and talented entrepreneurs, but also a strong support network, and Invest NI has been working with the councils and other organisations in the area to provide that.
Headline success stories included the Almac Group which invested over £54 million to create 348 high quality jobs at its facility in Craigavon, Moy Park’s £170million expansion across its three sites in Dungannon, Craigavon and Ballymena which will create 628 new jobs, Teleperformance’s investment with plans to create 800 new jobs in Fermanagh and the establishment of Eishtec’s new customer service centre in Craigavon that will create up to 320 jobs over the next three years. This undermines the commonly held belief that job creation is focused on Belfast; in fact during the 2011–2015 period 72 per cent of the 28,000 jobs created with Invest NI support were outside Belfast.
The western region is also known for being home to a flourishing materials handling sector which has attracted major international companies such as Terex GB, Sandvik, Kingspan and NACCO.
Innovation and export success
But it is not only the big hitters but also the small players that are boosting the economy, through innovation and export success. Companies like Saturn Electrical Distribution, Oil Market Journal, Surfaceform and Water Tecnik are just some of the region’s many export success stories. Building exports remains a key focus and the implementation of DETI’s Export Action Plan - Export Matters, will help to encourage companies in Northern Ireland to be active and successful in selling in global markets. Invest NI will drive the export action plan forward in this region and seek to assist those firms who are already competing successfully overseas as well as supporting new exporters in order to increase and diversify our export base.
The Year of Food and Drink 2016 presents an opportunity to showcase and promote the region’s thriving agri-food sector and the excellence of the produce that is finding markets all over the world. With 70 per cent of our food and drink products sold to markets outside Northern Ireland, food businesses in the region, such as Kestrel Foods, Irwin’s and Crust & Crumb, are no strangers to export success.
The western region is a forward-thinking one. It is the home of Northern Ireland’s only STEM Centre and a SMART Region bringing together businesses, government and citizens to find solutions and exploit opportunities to further develop the region.
This spirit of co-operation underpins the region and will nurture its development. Invest NI in conjunction with other economic development stakeholders will continue to work in partnership with the people here to further develop the western regional economy.