Working towards a common goal in the Southern Region

Mark Bleakney, Invest Northern Ireland’s Southern Regional Manager outlines how Invest Northern Ireland and its enterprise partners are working together to grow the economy in the southern region.

The key to growing a strong local economy is ensuring that stakeholders work together to an agreed common purpose. Under local government reform, the council areas of Newry Mourne and Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh and Ards and North Down have greater responsibilities for economic development.

As a statutory partner, Invest NI is proactively contributing to the councils’ community plans and the economic briefings we delivered on each region have been valuable resources for the councils as they identify their areas of focus and goals for economic growth. This work will help to promote the region and ensure that businesses and entrepreneurs continue to get the support they need to succeed.

Of the 4,754 jobs secured for the region by Invest NI between 2011 and 2015, over 4,494 will be created by local businesses.

The Southern region has a thriving small business economy reflected in the fact that, of the 4,754 jobs secured for the region by Invest NI between 2011 and 2015, over 4,494 will be created by local businesses.

Inward investment

But the region has also had its share of inward investment. Invest NI secured almost £62 million of inward investment for the Southern region in the past four years from companies such as Montupet, LE Pritchett, BE Aerospace and Kilkeel Seafoods. There is also a successful financial and professional services cluster within the region anchored on First Derivatives.


This highlights that Belfast is not the focus of job creation in Northern Ireland, as so often claimed. In fact, 72 per cent of the 28,000 jobs created with Invest NI support over the last four years (2011-2015) were within businesses located outside Belfast.

Export success

Moreover, Invest NI’s support is not all about job creation but rather about wealth creation, and a primary contributor to this is raising export levels to bring new money into the economy. We have worked with many companies in the Southern region to help them achieve export success.

Among these are Newry company Re-Gen Waste which recently secured a major deal in Turkey, Lisburn company Precious Packaging which is now exporting to 17 countries, and AB Pneumatics which is selling its airsprings to China. This is good news for the economy. We are keen to support many more companies to export, and its upcoming trade missions are a chance for companies to explore new markets around the world from Brazil to the Nordics.

Building exports remains a key focus and the implementation of DETI’s Exports Action Plan - Export Matters, will help to encourage companies in Northern Ireland to be active and successful in selling in global markets. We will 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. Invest NI will drive this forward in this region helping local businesses to move into new markets.

Performance data also shows a number of successful industries in the region with construction, advanced engineering, and agri-food sectors delivering a combined turnover last year of over £2 billion.

The recent announcement that accumulatively 24 companies in the region are investing £5.8 million and creating 110 new jobs as part of growth projects is more good news for the region.

We are confident that, if all stakeholders in the area continue to work towards the common goal of economic strength, we will hear many more good news stories in the months and years to come.