“In 2006/07, Invest Northern Ireland supported half a billion pounds of new investment commitments and backed an overseas investment project every nine working days,” Invest NI Chief Executive Leslie Morrison said today.
Announcing the development agency’s preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2007, Leslie Morrison said that Invest NI’s clients had committed to invest more than £2.6 billion since 2002 and are drivers of Northern Ireland’s economic activity:
“Invest NI-backed companies now account for nearly 90 per cent of Northern Ireland’s exports and 96 per cent of business investment in Research and Development.
“Our 2,200 client businesses generate twice the Northern Ireland average for new product development, 60 per cent more than the average gross value added (GVA) and each employee generates annual sales of more than £120,000.
“Over the past year, we have continued to deliver investment under particularly challenging conditions, making on average 7 offers of assistance each working day, and supporting 17 new, internationally mobile investment projects.
“Across our full range of support programmes, Invest NI offered some £47m to foreign-owned clients in support of £228m investment commitments and some £53m to domestically-owned clients who have committed to invest £221m.
“With a new Assembly only days away, we must utilise a new era of political accommodation to improve the profile of Northern Ireland abroad.
“Our collective challenge is to deliver strategies that make more local businesses competitive in international export markets and to increase Northern Ireland’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment.”
Summarising Invest NI’s performance over the 12 months to March 2007, Leslie Morrison said that, despite increasingly tough competition for foreign direct investment, 2006/07 was Invest NI’s most successful year since the organisation was created in 2002:
“A total of 28 new overseas-owned projects were secured and these are expected to create 3,497 new jobs and to safeguard 199 existing jobs.
“Of these 28 projects, 17 were first-time internationally mobile investments that will promote 2,559 new jobs. These alone represent a planned investment of nearly £128m, including Invest NI assistance of some £27m. Seventy six per cent of first-time inward investments are to be located in new Targeting Social Need (nTSN) areas.
“Eleven externally owned clients committed to expand their existing Northern Ireland operations and were offered almost £10 million of Invest NI assistance towards total planned investment of over £48 million.
“Winning investment from Firstsource, Tyco, Axa, Imagine Telecom and Coca Cola, in addition to reinvestment by Citigroup, Liberty IT, Teleperformance, Almac, Galen and Bombardier, indicates investor confidence in Northern Ireland and optimism for the future.
“Since 2002, Invest NI has attracted a total of £1.1 billion of new inward investment from 166 projects. Our overall activities have helped client companies create 13,000 new jobs and our intervention has safeguarded a further 10,500.
“In an intensely competitive global investment climate, where Northern Ireland’s perceived political instability has attracted worldwide attention, this is a record for which Invest NI and its staff can be justly proud.
“Our direct support for locally focused business continued to deliver high levels of outputs, 2,938 offers having been made to such start-ups through the Start a Business Programme and 16 through the Social Enterprise Programme. Much remains to be done in the field of entrepreneurship culture change, including a sustained and increased focus on enterprise by the education system – an area where the business community can play a leadership role in curriculum adjustments and career guidance.”
The highlights of the preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2007 include:
A total of £450 million was committed to projects during the year, of which £100 million represented offers of assistance from Invest NI;
There were 526 offers of Selective Financial Assistance (SFA) to locally-owned client companies and 37 offers of SFA to externally owned clients which collectively will generate an additional £131 million of new wages and salaries throughout Northern Ireland;
57% of total assistance was offered to projects within (nTSN) areas;
Companies participating on Trade Missions etc reported £270m of new exports;
3,042 offers of assistance to new business starts, of which 88 had the capacity to sell in external markets from an early stage, including 15 with global market potential;
£4m invested to develop site infrastructure and support the property needs of clients. Sales of sites covering over 200 acres generated over £15m for the NI Block.
Commenting on the preliminary results, Invest Northern Ireland Chairman Stephen Kingon said that despite the record level of achievement, the organisation would have to continue to raise its game:
“Northern Ireland can no longer call itself – or sell itself – as a low-cost manufacturing location and the dramatic growth of China, India and the EU’s new members sets the benchmark by which low-cost locations are now being measured.
“Northern Ireland’s future prosperity hangs on our ability to create and sustain a high value-added, internationally competitive, export-led economy. But economic regeneration on that scale demands a new vision of a better future and bold and determined strategies to win it.
“To realise that future we must create world-class research in our universities, innovation and process excellence in our companies, export growth as the measure of our performance and new foreign direct investment as the badge of our success.
“Northern Ireland is facing some of the greatest challenges we have seen in two generations. The Board and the staff of Invest NI recognise that how we face these challenges will determine our future prosperity. We cannot face them alone. We need the commitment and partnership of academics, politicians, business, our social partners and the people of Northern Ireland.
“Our future prosperity will be determined by the success of this partnership in integrating education, skills, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and social development into a blueprint for economic prosperity and social inclusion. And that is a process that should begin on 8 May.
“This was a good year, but next year needs to be better and the year after better still. There is a long way to go to regenerate Northern Ireland. We are making the first steps in our contribution.”