Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier investment gives province a big lift

By David Elliot

Sometimes it feels like an overly negative flow of news hits the business desk but it rarely lasts, even in the most difficult times, and you only need to wait a while to have the balance redressed.

Take for instance the former Nortel site, which is the focus of today's business pages.

Not that long ago Nortel was one of the shining lights of the local economy, employing more than 1,000 people and exuding the much-talked about multiplier effect to many more individuals and businesses.

Then, as you don't need me to tell you, things turned sour when the UK arm of Nortel entered administration and that light was well and truly snuffed out.

Today's news that Bombardier, a company which has had more ups and downs over the last few years than the rollercoaster at Portrush amusement park Barry's, has bought the site is welcome news, not just for those involved but for those in the wider economy.

Just yesterday, Business Telegraph reported on a new research and development centre for the aerospace, defence and security industry in Northern Ireland and it's clear that local businesses in the industry have even more to give, over and above the 7% contributed by them to the UK sector already.

Bombardier hasn't revealed what its plans for the site are but further investment and expansion by it further bolsters confidence in an area of industry which we in Northern Ireland are becoming particularly proficient.

While the Belfast harbour-based company is leading the way in the field, there are plenty of other local companies carving a niche for themselves and expanding our attractiveness to inward investors and overseas buyers alike.

Great news and good to see the next stage of the site taking a turn for the better.

But, as we've already alluded to, the mood of the news changes faster than the tides on this desk and no sooner were we wallowing in the good vibes from Newtownabbey than we were faced with the latest retail figures which paint a fairly cloudy picture of the high street.

Retailers suffered their worst month in January as even bargain hungry shoppers kept hold of the purse strings amid worries about the labour market and their ever-tightening disposable income.

Meanwhile, new car sales in Northern Ireland fell by 6% during the month.

As a good reflection of the health of the economy, new car sales are pretty accurate and show we're suffering more than the other UK regions.

It's true of course that we've fallen from a greater height on the economic cycle. However, it seems a lack of confidence is extending the fall by more than is justified.

Investments like Bombardier's can only help limit that decline so let's hope we have more of their ilk in the near future.

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