Invest NI has said it helped fund more jobs in local businesses than foreign firms over the last 12 months. In its end of year results for 2012-13, the economic development agency said its work had resulted in 7,400 jobs being promoted – up 14% on the year before.
Chairman Mark Ennis said 4,596 of those jobs were from locally-owned companies, and 65% of those positions were paid wages of over the £18,500 private sector median in Northern Ireland. And 93% of 5,000 offers of assistance had been made to locally-owned companies.
Mr Ennis described the figures as "an excellent set of results". But both Mr Ennis and chief executive Alastair Hamilton admitted at a hearing of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee that a target in the Programme for Government to boost manufacturing exports by 20% from 2011 to 2015 was tougher to meet. There had been just 1.5% of export growth in 2013 – far off a target of 7% for year three of the PfG – compared to 5.5% in 2012. But research and development achievements had presented "a superb result for Northern Ireland," Mr Hamilton said, with the agency contributing to £105m in private sector investment in R&D, 21% above target.
He said many major foreign direct investors had delayed investment announcements last year but that those investments were now coming out, such as last week's announcement by business advisers Deloitte of 177 new positions. Other announcements would be made in coming weeks across a different sectors, he said.
Business groups responded positively to the results.
Ian Coulter, chairman of the CBI in the province, said: "These are encouraging results from Invest NI, within the context of a very challenging economic environment. The high levels of investment in R&D, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises, and the general levels of investment in both our local and international companies, are particularly positive."
Invest NI also revealed that from 2011 to 2013, there were 5,060 jobs promoted under the Jobs Fund. The Jobs Fund was set up to create lower-paid jobs more quickly in the environment of spiralling unemployment – and Mr Hamilton revealed that talks were taking place to extend the lifetime of the fund.
MLAs on the enterprise, trade and investment committee welcomed the results and Mr Hamilton said he would encourage the politicians on the committee to join trade missions overseas and in turn inform companies about export opportunities.
Invest NI results 2012-13
Nearly 7,400 jobs were promoted. The agency said it can not yet give figures for jobs created, except for those jobs created by the Jobs Fund, of which 2,699 out of 5,060 were created from 2011-2013. But Invest NI said it is working on a system to monitor jobs created and jobs promoted.
80% of jobs promoted by externally-owned firms and 65% of those promoted by locally-owned firms paid above the private sector average of £18,500.