Over 75 people attended the second public consultation meeting on Invest Northern Ireland’s draft strategy Accelerating Entrepreneurship, held on Thursday in the City Hotel, Armagh.

The strategy aims to get more people involved in new business ventures and assist existing companies become more successful. The meeting was the second of three scheduled as part of the public consultation process, which runs until 28 March.

Those attending the meeting included representatives from the local business community, councils, enterprise agencies, further and higher education and community sectors.

Invest NI Chairman Fabian Monds and Prof Terri Scott, Managing Director of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise, outlined the main points of the draft strategy and then took questions and comments from the audience on a range of issues including a call for greater integration of fiscal policy with investment decisions, the desire to provide accelerated responses to the needs of business, and the need for a well defined local property strategy to ensure delivery of suitable accommodation for start-up and growing businesses.

Through the strategy, Invest NI proposes to customise its business development support resources to promote a substantial increase in company start-ups in three distinct sectors with very different needs: businesses with global market potential; those capable of external sales and those focused on the Northern Ireland market.

Among the initiatives contained in the strategy is the development of a unique Virtual Enterprise Mall that will provide advice and assistance on a 24/7 basis. This will give people interested in starting or growing a business, a gateway for accessing the extensive network of support available in Northern Ireland.

Fabian Monds said: “I’m delighted that so many people have come out to this second public consultation meeting to contribute to the process by making their views known. It’s vital that the strategy meets the needs of entrepreneurs because we recognise that it is entrepreneurs who drive economic growth.

“Our aim is to harness the business ideas of local people and to provide a framework that will enable them to achieve success in local, national and international markets. By doing so we will help create sustainable employment in this region and throughout Northern Ireland.”

Prof Scott said: “We’ve had a lot of interest in the strategy already. Our objective is to reach and receive feedback from all those interested in accelerating entrepreneurship. We anticipate that over the next few weeks the momentum of this consultation process will build up and produce a high level of response which will inform the final version of the strategy and ensure Northern Ireland becomes recognised as one of the best places to start and grow a business.”

Copies of the draft consultation document are being circulated to business organisations, councils and enterprise bodies. A further public briefing will take place in Belfast on Tuesday, 25th February at 10.30 am in the NTL Studio at the Waterfront Hall.

The draft document is also included on the Invest NI website at www.investni.com/aes