Supporting North East companies through the economic downturn

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has welcomed Invest NI’s support to companies in the North East region, during the current economic downturn.

The Minister spoke as she visited companies in County Antrim and met with local stakeholders at Invest Northern Ireland’s Regional Office in Ballymena.

Speaking at Invest NI’s North East Regional Office, the minister said: “Even in this current economic downturn, local businesses across the North East region can benefit from Invest NI support.

“A Credit Crunch seminar was held last month in Ballymena to help companies increase competitiveness and profitability, by focusing more on generating efficiencies and introducing better processes.

“Specialist guidance was also provided on how to increase new sales in export markets, which remains a vital element of survival in this difficult economic climate. Northern Ireland businesses must place an even greater focus on increasing the value-added to products and services and developing innovative sales and marketing techniques.

“A further opportunity to attend another Credit Crunch seminar in the region, will be available later this month.”

The minister was encouraged to hear that Invest NI’s support is already helping companies on the ground in the North East region.

She said: “My meetings today with companies in the region including Drainmaster, Shaw Automation and Moore Concrete have highlighted at first hand, how Invest NI’s range of support can help locally owned businesses to maintain competitiveness in export markets and develop quality employment opportunities, despite the global economic downturn.”

The minister also reflected on recent investment announcements in the North East region, which delivered a welcome boost to the local economy.

Arlene Foster said: “In July, I announced a £2.7million expansion programme at the Bushmills Inn Hotel. This is encouraging news for both indigenous company growth and for our local tourism industry.

“I announced a £16million investment by US global medical device manufacturer CaridianBCT, Inc at the company’s Larne facilities, in September.

“This investment is testimony to the quality and skilled work force available in the region and is expected to create 235 additional skilled jobs over the next three years.”

Arlene Foster believes companies across Northern Ireland must also focus on long-term planning, despite the challenges being faced.

She said: “In the current economic climate it is critical that firms not only seek out short-term solutions to survive the economic downturn, but they must also continue to plan for the future and continue to invest in their R&D programmes.

“When this current downturn ends, it will be those companies that have maintained their innovation and R&D capabilities that will be ready to seize competitive advantage in the global market.

“The MATRIX report, which provides advice to government on how to maximise economic opportunities by exploiting our R&D and science and technology strengths, has already set out a blueprint for future market opportunities. Right now companies must combine their short-term survival needs with forward thinking and innovative future planning. Only then can we all seek to improve the effectiveness and competitiveness of the Northern Ireland economy, over the medium to long term.”