“Entrepreneurial activity is vital to the success of our economy and Townsend Enterprise Park is playing a key role in nurturing entrepreneurial talent in north west Belfast,” said Sir Reg Empey, MLA, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, speaking today at the celebration to mark the 15th anniversary of the local enterprise agency.

The Minister continued: “The new Business Birth Rate Strategy being developed by Invest NI will place entrepreneurial activity at the very heart of our economic planning. It will champion the role of entrepreneurs and ensure that all the necessary support mechanisms are integrated, relevant and easily accessible throughout Northern Ireland. The local enterprise agency network across Northern Ireland is a key element in this strategy.”

Sir Reg continued: “Townsend Enterprise Centre was one of the first enterprise agencies to be set up in Belfast. It has overcome the challenges presented by its particular location to create and deliver a successful range of business initiatives to the local community for the improvement of economic conditions in the area.

“These include the BEST programme which offers training to the long term unemployed for the software testing industry, the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment and the Northern Ireland Business Start Programme.

“We need to encourage more people to think about self-employment and Townsend is to be commended for providing outreach services to the community in terms of enterprise clinics and business training clinics,” the Minister added.

Sir Reg also referred to the contribution that Townsend Enterprise Park has made to the recent West Belfast and Greater Shankill Taskforce report, and paid tribute to the Board, management and staff of the Park for their dedication and commitment to fostering cross community links during the last 15 years.

During his visit Sir Reg presented completion certificates to the first group of participants in the BEST programme.

Townsend Enterprise Park is one of the largest enterprise agencies in Northern Ireland, comprising 65,000 sq ft of workspace. It currently accommodates 45 businesses, which employ approximately 350 people. During his visit Sir Reg visited some of the Park’s tenants, which include e-businesses, accountants, printers, computer consultants, designers, and food, furniture and clothing manufacturers.

The Park offers a wide range of services to small and medium sized businesses in their pre-start, start up and growth stages. These include offering support, training and advice on marketing, finance, business plans and business development as well as the provision of serviced workspace and consultancy.