Invest Northern Ireland has released its mid-year results for 2014/15 showing another strong performance by the economic development agency.
Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest NI said: “Last year was our best year on record and we did not expect to be able to match, let alone exceed, that performance this year. However, at the mid-year point of this financial year we have already surpassed some of our 2013/14 achievements.
“By end of September 2014 we had promoted over 10,800 jobs – this not only exceeds the full year total for last year, but is also the highest number of jobs we have ever promoted in a six month period.
“Our support has also contributed toward £1.11bn of investment in the Northern Ireland economy, again surpassing the 2013/14 full year total.
“Local businesses are responsible for over half of the jobs promoted and nearly half of the investment commitments, showing the substantial contribution they are making to our economy.”
Key achievements from the first six months of 2014/15 include:
“We have had a strong start to the year with new investors choosing to locate their businesses in Northern Ireland. These included the world’s largest law firm Baker & McKenzie (256 jobs) and Proofpoint (94 jobs), from the West Coast of the US, an area where our investment proposition is gaining increasing traction. Such announcements are a positive demonstration of business confidence in the world’s economic recovery, with companies bringing forward projects that they had previously pressed pause on. They are the result of several years’ hard work by our international teams in securing these for Northern Ireland.
“In addition to renewed confidence by international investors, there is another reason why the first six months of this year has seen such a strong performance. When we became aware of the changes the EU planned to make to our ability to support reinvestments by large companies we made a concerted effort to bring forward projects before the EU deadline. Projects such as the 807 jobs by PwC and the 628 jobs by Moy Park are examples of expansions by large firms that Invest NI will not be able to support in the future.
“This drive to ensure we were able to get these projects over the line before 30 June, and in turn secure the projects for Northern Ireland, has meant we have had a spike in the number of jobs promoted and the investments made. Consequently we expect to see a slowdown in the second half of this year.
“We have also seen companies increase their investment in R&D and skills. These are important elements of the success mix and, especially in the case of R&D, essential to a company’s ability to compete on a global scale.
“Disappointingly, based on HMRC data, which still unfortunately does not capture services exports, we continue to see slow progress in growing Northern Ireland manufacturing exports towards the 20 per cent Programme for Government target. However, feedback we are receiving from companies as part of our quarterly surveys indicates that they are experiencing growth in exporting, and also in external sales to Great Britain. We have seen companies make good progress in winning new business, such as the £30m contract in Singapore for Wrightbus; and break into new markets like Clonallon Laboratories’ first deal in the Middle East.
“Despite this, the continued difficulties in key European markets, current restrictions on exports to Russia, an emerging growth market for us, and a slowdown in China, do mean that we expect to see slow growth and that it will take some time for our exports to reach the target levels set by the Programme for Government.
“Our success, particularly over the past 18 months, comes with a cost, in terms of legally binding commitments which must be met, often up to five years ahead.
“In the recently published draft 2015-16 Budget settlement, Invest NI has been given a budget of £96m. At this level, our budget will be 93% committed at the start of the year, resulting in only very small levels of funding being available for new business in-year.
“For the remainder of this year and into next we will now have a renewed focus on rebuilding our pipeline of projects to drive future investments in Northern Ireland. We also eagerly await the decision on whether the NI Executive will receive the powers to vary its own Corporation Tax, something we strongly believe will open up new opportunities for us in terms of attracting new investors here. Should a positive decision be forthcoming, we will immediately seek to capitalise on this for the long term benefit to the NI economy.”