Invest NI on target to support 6,000 jobs this year
But business development agency says there are challenges in adhering to EU rules on incentives
Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg
Invest NI, the North’s regional business development agency, expects to beat government job creation targets and support around 6,000 new jobs in the current financial year, according to its chief executive Alastair Hamilton.
Mr Hamilton today told the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment that since 2011 the agency had helped to “promote” more than 39,000 new jobs across the North since 2011 - against an original target of 25,000.
“Our revised target is now 41,000, and with just six months to go we are on track to exceed this too.
“These new jobs have been in a range of sectors including food, manufacturing, legal, business and financial services, and across every council area. Our support for jobs has helped generate nearly £3 billion of investment in the local economy,” he told politicians.
But the latest Invest NI figures illustrate the challenges the agency has come up against in adhering to new European Union legislation governing regional financial incentives for large companies.
Before the EU rules came into force last June Invest NI had helped to support nearly 14,000 jobs in the previous financial year.
Mr Hamilton said: “These changes over the last 18 months have altered the landscape of what Invest NI can leverage through its support.
“I am therefore really encouraged to see that, when comparing like for like across the Programme for Government period, we are on track to deliver another strong performance again this year.”
According to the agency the average cost of each job supported in the North is currently in the region of £5,300.
Mr Hamilton said that since 2011 Invest NI had made over 20,800 offers of support to businesses - 93 per cent of which were to locally owned companies.
“These offers have translated into over £650 million of assistance. As well as providing support to create new jobs, we also help companies undertake R&D and invest in skills to improve the efficiency of their business.
“This support has resulted in a significant investment of a further £730 million in the economy.”
Over the last six months the agency has secured six new inward investors for the North including a customer service centre in Craigavon by Eishtech that has pledged to create 320 jobs over the next three years, and a HR outsourcing centre in Derry by Texas-based OneSource Virtual, which hopes to create 289 new jobs by 2017.
Mr Hamilton faced questions from the committee about if Invest NI promotes all areas of Northern Ireland equally to potential investors or focuses too closely on the greater Belfast region.
Mr Hamilton said in the first half of the year 79 per cent of all the jobs supported were outside the Belfast area.
It was also suggested by Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir that Invest NI should explore opportunities to work with IDA Ireland to secure new investment.