Foster meets with Belfast Chamber of Commerce

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today met with the Belfast Chamber of Commerce to discuss a range of business issues and to highlight the opportunities that exist for the City in 2012.

Speaking at the meeting, the Minister said: “Tourism has a key role to play in the economic development of Belfast and 2012 is the year when much of our recent investment comes together to place Northern Ireland on the world stage as a visitor destination.

“Belfast will host a number of key events that are taking place as part of the NI2012 celebrations. In just a few weeks we will celebrate the Titanic centenary, with the opening of the new Titanic Belfast building and a fusion of international-scale events have been planned to mark the occasion. Other exciting events in 2012 include the opening of the MAC arts facility and the 50th anniversary of the Belfast Festival at Queen's.

“In recent years, the City has come on leaps and bounds in terms of its hospitality infrastructure, technical ability and capabilities. It is now ready to grasp the opportunities NI2012 will bring and this will boost the economy and create jobs.”

Turning to the difficult trading conditions that businesses are facing, Arlene Foster assured the Chamber of her continued endeavours to ensure that the right support is readily available. The Minister said: “These are challenging times with heightened economic uncertainty, and many businesses who are considering investments, currently lack the confidence to do so. This obviously has an impact of our exports, on jobs and on the wider economy.

“In response to the downturn, last year Invest Northern Ireland launched its Boosting Business initiative. Since the launch, they have received over 4,150 enquiries from businesses seeking support and guidance on a range of issues. Many of these have been from businesses which have historically been outside of Invest NI’s normal customer base.

“Furthermore, the Executive recently agreed a number of changes to the business rates system to help the local business community. These changes are expected to play a small but important part in helping to create the conditions for a sustained economic recovery.”

The Minister concluded: “The Chamber’s continued work in making Belfast businesses more productive and outward-looking is valued and will go far in enhancing Northern Ireland’s economic prospects.”