Supporting the growth of the Western region
The role of Invest Northern Ireland is to provide advice, guidance, and support to businesses to help them thrive and grow. We also collaborate with partners across the Western region to support wider economic development.
Ethna McNamee writes in this week's Ulster Herald about how our Western Regional Office supports businesses across Fermanagh & Omagh, Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon and Mid Ulster District Council areas. These areas are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, manufacturing, thriving agricultural sector and ambitious life & health sciences and construction companies.
Over the past five years, we have offered over £111m of support to more than 1,300 businesses in the Western Region to help them invest in their business. This has the potential to generate over £613m of investment in the economy and the creation of over 4,200 new jobs.
Financial assistance is only one way we help. Our team works closely with each business and provides personalised support, offering expert advice on a range of areas from selling outside Northern Ireland, job creation, upskilling staff, and how to access external funding opportunities. We also run dedicated programmes, workshops and training to help businesses achieve growth and improve productivity.
We recognise that the region has many micro and small enterprises, and it may be daunting for these businesses to seek our support. To encourage these businesses to get in touch with us, we launched the Ambition to Grow programme, dedicated to supporting ambitious local businesses to create great jobs, innovate processes and sell products or services outside Northern Ireland. Over 45 diverse companies including manufacturers, engineering firms and software development businesses from the Western region have already been successful in joining the programme.
We are supporting Happy Raspberry HR, based in Portadown, to expand its current team to deliver a new online learning and development service to its clients in GB and RoI. Cloud Application Services, based in Omagh is using our support to grow its team in response to increasing demand for its software development and IT services. Monea Metal Designs based in Fermanagh is tapping into new markets in RoI and we are supporting the company to increase its marketing, product development and manufacturing capacity. The companies will be able to access to our in-market teams for guidance on how to access a new market and grow exports.
Investing in regional growth goes beyond job creation; it's also about supporting companies to be more resilient by growing sales. An excellent example is OES Solutions Ltd, based in Dungannon. We helped the company win three new contracts and grow sales in Great Britain following participation on our early-stage exporter programme, Grow Beyond, which we have designed to help businesses grow sales in both GB and RoI.
It is well known that introducing new and improved products and services is imperative to meet changing customer needs and help grow sales. There is a frequent misconception that innovation equals ‘white coat’ Research & Development (R&D), but it is much more than that. Some businesses don’t realise they are innovating. In reality, innovation is everything from refining products, to changing processes to make them more efficient. Investing in R&D and innovation in whatever form is crucial to secure your businesses future. Armagh based AIC Group Limited recently invested in significant R&D, with our support, and has gone on to win a contract with the NHS – a great example of how strategic investment in R&D can lead to new opportunities and growth.
As well as working directly with businesses, we also collaborate with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, Mid Ulster District Council, and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council to help ensure businesses in the region are reaching their full potential. Together, we are igniting economic growth through ambitious projects, including the £250m Mid-South West Growth Deal, which aims to increase productivity, drive business growth and create more and better-paid jobs in the region.
We’re well aware that many businesses are experiencing increased costs and that taking the time to look at how they might improve their current processes can enhance efficiencies and their profitability. This is why we have partnered with Mid Ulster District Council to deliver a series of Operation Excellence workshops which we estimate over 50 businesses across the region will attend.
We also work in collaboration with Local Enterprise Agencies, FE Colleges, CAFRE, Community Planning Partners, Labour Market Partnerships and industry groups to support economic development. Our support for MEGA, an industry-led network of 70+ companies through our Collaborative Growth Programme is helping companies in the Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering sector in Mid Ulster work together to address industry challenges including skills development to support staff retention and increase exports.
As you can see, our work is wide and varied and influences, supports and shapes business investment and economic growth in lots of ways. We are always keen to hear from businesses looking to scale up and look to sell outside of Northern Ireland, or entrepreneurs with a new export focussed business idea. If that is you, then connect with our Business Support Team at 0800 181 4422 to see if we can support you to achieve your business ambitions.