'Big opportunities' may be on the horizon for Northern Ireland construction firms with new Heathrow runway
Northern Ireland construction firms could see "big opportunities" with the expansion of Heathrow Airport, it's been claimed.
And during a visit to Belfast yesterday, the UK's Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said the green light for the third runway "is a boon for the economy as a whole, and for the local economies".
Asked whether there will be a visible impact and boost to Northern Ireland's economy, he said: "There will be over £60bn worth of boost to the UK economy as a whole. Yes, when you open up different gateways to different paths of the country, including, and sustaining and strengthening routes into Belfast, that will mean new investment, new opportunities and new businesses looking to Northern Ireland."
Brian Ambrose, chief executive of Belfast City Airport, said aside from adding new routes, some of Northern Ireland's big construction firms could benefit from huge levels of work as a result of the third runway.
"We are delighted with the decision. I think Heathrow is, and will always be, the main hub airport to give us connectivity to the rest of the world," he said.
"I think the benefits will flow. There are a number of Northern Ireland companies with the expertise. In the construction phase, there will be big opportunities."
And John Armstrong of the Construction Employers Federation said: "Not only is Heathrow the right decision for Northern Ireland, but its development also has great potential for our local construction industry.
"Many local contractors already have significant expertise in this type of development and, from both a main contractor and supply chain perspective, the opportunities will be substantial. That being said, there are many hurdles that the scheme has yet to clear."
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Lord Ahmad said: "While it's a decision we have taken in the national interest, my being here underlines that this is an important decision for the whole country.
"We want to not only strengthen those routes, but also with the build of the new runway it opens up new routes.
And he said "there will be opportunity for Belfast International Airport".
"In terms of regional connectivity... I think it's great news."
In the short-term, Lord Ahmad said it will firm up and ensure businesses do not look elsewhere, knowing the expansion is on the way.
Speaking about Brexit, he said: "We are not leaving Europe, and we will continue to have established and strong relations with our European partners, but not to the detriment of international relations - the message is a very positive one."
Dr Esmond Birnie, senior economist of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, said: "Especially in a post-Brexit world, we need to connect and trade more with the most distant parts of the world economy. Increased airport capacity in the London area will help to achieve that."
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey has called on the government to guarantee slots at Heathrow for regional airports.