Invest NI and Northern Ireland’s 26 district councils are on target to help create over 6,000 new businesses with a £45 million total investment that will generate around £600 million for the local economy by 2005, Prof. Terri Scott, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise, said today.

Prof Scott was speaking at a special ‘Celebrating Success’ presentation to highlight the role of the Northern Ireland Business Start Programme (NIBSP) and to mark the 2,000th company, a photography business formed by Ingrid Perry in Annalong, Co. Down, to receive NIBSP backing.

Launched in September 2001, the NIBSP is a partnership between Invest NI, the 26 district councils and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme. The presentation was held in the Tower Hotel, Londonderry.

Said Prof. Scott: “The NIBSP is a hugely successful programme that is helping to shape a new generation of entrepreneurs who will help drive the local economy forward and, in turn, stimulate a stronger entrepreneurial culture at community level.

“This flagship programme offers a fully integrated and co-ordinated approach by Invest NI and the district councils in providing relevant start-up assistance to individuals wishing either to set up a small company or become self-employed.

“This initiative is a significant source of job creation at local level in the 26 council areas. Around 9,000 new jobs are expected by April 2005 from a total £45 million investment that will include £12 million from Invest NI, the councils and ERDF,” she added.

Prof. Scott, speaking to over 100 representatives from the 26 district councils, the ERDF and local business people, said the programme, which had been integrated by many councils within local economic development plans, had exceeded all its key targets.

“The NIBSP is also the first step for small businesses to the broad range of support from Invest NI which will enable many to move confidently into external markets.

“By celebrating success we hope to stimulate many more people throughout Northern Ireland to explore the opportunity that this programme provides to turn a business idea into a viable enterprise,” added Prof. Scott.

Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of Enterprise NI, commenting on the NIBSP, said: “The fact that Enterprise NI, which delivers advice and one-to-one mentoring support for Invest NI, has exceeded targets is an impressive measure of the growing interest in business start-up throughout Northern Ireland.

“It is also an indication of the high quality of the programme’s services, which are underpinned by a strong customer focus that ensures participants gain practical knowledge and experience,” she added.

Among other speakers at the event were Alan McDowell, Chairman of Ards Borough Council’s Development Committee, and Frank Dick, President of the European Athletics Coaches Association, and a board member of the UK Sports Institute, who has developed a motivational approach to training and development for business through his coaching methods.