Provisional figures for the year ended 31 March 2010 indicate that Invest NI supported activity will result in businesses in Northern Ireland investing £686m over the coming years as they work through short term challenges and maintain a focus on the longer term aim of growing a higher value economy.
Performance highlights for 2009/10 include:
£686 million of investment commitments secured (up 4% excluding Bombardier C-Series investment in 2008/09). Collectively, these investments will generate £164m annually in wages and salaries;
£181m of support offered (up 20%) through 3,745 offers of assistance;
Ninety-three per cent of these offers, and 63% of all support (2008/09: 54%), were to locally owned businesses, ranging from small, young companies to established global players, such as First Derivatives, Almac Group, Dale Farm, Wrightbus and Randox;
55 new employment related inward investments committing £196m including major projects from NYSE Technologies, Seagate and Norfolkline. 74% of new jobs arising from these investments will pay salaries above the NI Private Sector Median (2008/09: 55%);
A total of 6,575 jobs either promoted or safeguarded - 4,300 new and 2,275 safeguarded;
2,296 locally-owned business starts supported;
A 134% increase in planned private sector investment to innovate and develop their capability;
Strong demand for Trade Support with 3346 participants taking part in market visits, accessing in-market support, or receiving export skills and sales training.
Welcoming the results, Invest NI Chairman, Stephen Kingon, said: “2009-10 was a year of challenge and change; one that required the organisation to be flexible in the short term while remaining fixed on longer term targets. The Northern Ireland Executive continues to place high priority on the economy with an overarching goal of halving the private sector productivity gap with the UK average by 2015. Invest NI’s work is central to achieving that goal and in 2009/2010, despite challenging economic conditions, we rose to the challenge.
“Our activity sits within the overall objectives of our 2008-2011 Corporate Plan and, at the two thirds stage, we are on course to meeting the vast majority of the targets set within it. This is particularly gratifying because the economic landscape has altered so dramatically over the last two years. When we set out the Corporate Plan we couldn’t have foreseen the depth and duration of the economic downturn, nor the effect on our client companies.”
Invest NI Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton, added: “The current, extremely challenging economic conditions have led to reductions in demand, in many instances forced businesses to take the unenviable decision to reduce output, re-look at their business model and, in some cases, necessitated downsizing in terms of employment.
“Against this backdrop, we have sought to provide the strongest possible support, and introduced a number of initiatives to help business confront immediate problems. This included fast-tracking support and developing and rolling out the new Short Term Aid Scheme, the first of its type in the UK.
“We were flexible in relation to conditions associated with offers of support, which was welcomed by many companies. We also introduced a range of initiatives to encourage businesses to look beyond their traditional markets, access expertise in specific business areas and increase skill levels. Many of these initiatives were made available to businesses beyond our traditional client base and their success was evident in the very positive feedback we received.
“Some 63% of our support and 93% of our total offers were for locally owned businesses who continue to make up the majority of our client base.
“Alongside our focus on innovation is a sustained drive to help more local businesses break into and succeed in export markets. As a small region Northern Ireland cannot prosper within the confines of our domestic economy alone. It is vital that we raise the level of exports, and it is for this reason that our assistance is focused on those businesses that have the strongest export potential.
“During the year over 3,340 businesses participated in market visits, accessed in-market support, or received export skills and sales training. While the direct financial support to these businesses was relatively small, the benefits were significant, with many companies reporting sizeable sales on the back of this export development activity.
“This underscores the importance of the non-financial support that we offer to clients across key areas such as technical, energy and environmental issues, information technology and market research.”
Alastair Hamilton also outlined the current budget challenge facing the organisation.
“As the offers of support we make in any one year are paid out over a number of future years, the substantial uplift in activity last year means that we have substantial legally binding forward commitments, to the extent that our budget for 2010/11 is almost 90% committed.
“The tightening budgetary environment, coupled with competing requirements to deliver on the targets of our Corporate Plan, to provide strong support through the downturn, to maximise the use of available EU state aids prior to changes in 2011 and to convert our pipeline of opportunity into project commitments, mean that we will need to aggressively focus on those projects which can deliver the maximum economic benefit. Inevitably, this will mean that difficult choices need to be made,” he concluded.