£16m rural investment programme creates 200 new jobs
More than 200 jobs have been created through a part-government funded investment programme to stimulate rural areas.
The Southern Organisation for Action in Rural areas (SOAR) started work in 2007 with the aim of helping businesses in Armagh, Craigavon, and Newry and Mourne.
The initiative poured £16.7m into the areas, and was part-funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the EU.
More than 260 projects received support, including Scarva restaurant Sinton's at the Bridge, which created 30 jobs, and Crilly's Sweets in Newry, which saw 10 new positions.
Councillor Joe Nelson, joint committee chairman, said he was pleased with the effectiveness of the scheme. "The job creation has been excellent, with the new jobs offering a real opportunity to grow our rural economy and make Northern Ireland a more prosperous place to live and invest."
He added: "It has been a fantastic journey through the initiative since 2007, with so many of the projects coming to completion in recent months. I am delighted to see the difference this support project has made right across the region from individuals in business to entire communities benefiting from better local amenities."
Julianne Morton, joint owner and manager of Sinton's, said: "We were extremely grateful to SOAR for supporting our project to build a new restaurant in Scarva. Their financial support ensured we delivered our project earlier than would otherwise have been possible."