“During 2005/06, Invest Northern Ireland clients committed a quarter of a million pounds of new investment every working day,” Invest NI Chief Executive Leslie Morrison said today.
Commenting on the publication and laying of Invest NI’s Annual Report for the year to 31 March 2006 at Parliament, Leslie Morrison said the 12-month period had delivered the highest level of investment by Invest NI clients since the organisation was established in 2002:
“Last year overseas-owned and local clients committed £616 million of new investment to Northern Ireland.
“We were successful in winning one internationally mobile project every three weeks, with overseas investment alone promoting or safeguarding over 6,000 jobs.
“Invest NI clients have now invested over £2.2 billion in the local economy since the organisation was created in 2002. With political and financial support from government and our stakeholders, we believe that the economy can continue to renew itself.”
Leslie Morrison said the 2005/06 results indicated that Invest NI had successfully integrated the various legacy agencies it had inherited on its formation in 2002. Referring to the organisation’s key performance indicators, he said that the agency had met, or exceeded, the majority of its targets, with reduced staff numbers.
In addition over its lifetime the organisation has delivered significant cost savings and Mr Morrison indicated that Invest NI’s running costs per head were amongst the lowest of comparable economic development organisations within the British Isles.
He summarised demand for Invest NI’s services during the year:
“The past 12 months has seen demand for the majority of Invest NI programmes and activities running at unprecedented levels.
“We have noted higher levels of innovation, enterprise and international engagement from our client companies.
“With our assistance, a significant number of clients have made commitments to investment in plant and innovation that will enable them to compete more strongly in global markets.”
The Report highlights some of the key outcomes resulting from Invest NI activities in 2005/06 including:-
The local economy will benefit from over £616m of new investment commitments which will generate over £200m a year in new salaries;
Invest NI made one offer of support every six hours and backed almost ten new business formations every day;
Over 320 existing locally-owned client companies committed to invest over £124m to expand and develop;
Over 500 client companies were assisted to undertake export-related activities, and over £189m of new business has been won to date;
Externally owned companies committed to 31 new projects, including 14 internationally mobile projects. Collectively, these promoted or safeguarded almost 6,400 jobs and will generate £130m in salaries, annually;
Invest NI’s regional office network supported local companies to implement over 150 projects which have achieved external sales of over £55m to date;
Property sales to clients amounted to £10m; and
Over 50,000 individuals participated in initiatives to generate more positive attitudes towards enterprise, with a focus on under-represented groups such as women and young people.
The Annual Report points to increasing global competition and a challenging business environment that will require Invest NI to direct scarce resources in order to achieve best value for money.
The Report concludes that future activities will see Invest NI placing a greater emphasis on quality projects, with increased levels of innovation and greater export potential.
It indicates that Northern Ireland continues to be attractive to certain international investors, particularly those seeking near-shore, culturally compatible locations capable of delivering close customer interaction with a high degree of problem solving; niche manufacturing; and R&D-based opportunities. The key attractors are talent, technology and moderate costs compared with major western cities.
Leslie Morrison says these have brought increased success in attracting Financial Services, ICT and Software companies, Shared Service Centres and business outsourcing Centres:
“Many overseas companies that have invested here have shown a tendency to reinvest, further embedding them into the fabric of our society and assisting in the growth of our economy.
“Follow-on commitments of £208m were made during the last financial year by international companies including Seagate Technologies, Canyon Europe and Caterpillar/FG Wilson and are expected to create 1,344 new jobs, while safeguarding 2,956 others.”
The Invest NI Annual Report points to efficiency achievements and savings the organisation made during the year.
Since April 2002 Invest NI has reduced the number of full time equivalent staff by 20%, with overheads (excluding staff costs) falling by 30%.
A significant contribution to cost reduction and increased efficiency resulted from the move to a new headquarters building in Bedford Street, financed through a Public Private Partnership. This will generate an estimated £10 million in operational savings, and has freed up surplus property assets. The communications and knowledge-sharing efficiencies of the new headquarters are benefiting both staff and clients and will further improve service delivery.
Responding to the publication of the Annual Report, Stephen Kingon, Chairman of Invest NI, said:
“Following three years of complex integration of legacy agencies and of high staff turnover following the replacement of over 250 staff that opted to return to the Northern Ireland Civil Service, 2005/06 represents the first full year of relative stability for Invest Northern Ireland.
“Our performance shows that, in a resource-constrained and highly competitive environment, we performed well against challenging targets and objectives.
“Costs are down, activity levels are up and the strong performance of Invest NI client companies in domestic and export markets indicates that there is potential for further growth and increased international competitiveness.
“However, we cannot afford to be complacent as globalisation and technology advances are intensifying the competitive landscape.
“Northern Ireland currently enjoys record levels of employment, and unemployment is significantly below that of the UK and EU. However, this conceals some serious structural weaknesses including overdependence on the public sector, the lowest labour-market participation and the highest long-term and youth unemployment in the UK, in addition to inadequate levels of business innovation.
“These are the challenges we and our stakeholders face in seeking to regenerate the Northern Ireland economy through attracting inward investment, helping domestic businesses to innovate for global markets and stimulating entrepreneurial activity.”
The full report can be found in the reports and publications section of the Invest NI website – www.investni.com