Stormont must help to create success stories like Titanic Quarter and Game of Thrones
Business chief Vince Cable urges government to free up funds for aspiring firms
Northern Ireland has suffered more than other UK regions during the downturn and should get more tailored help from Government lending schemes, the Business Secretary Vince Cable has said.
The Liberal Democrat (right) was in Northern Ireland to visit a number of firms including Brookvent, which makes ventilation systems in Dunmurry, the Titanic Quarter, Northern Ireland Science Park and Paint Hall, where the HBO series Game of Thrones is being filmed.
Mr Cable spoke to the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Simon Hamilton about extending initiatives like Start-Up Loans and the Business Bank to Northern Ireland.
During talks, the politicians discussed the challenges faced by firms here in getting access to finance whether through traditional or alternative means and the participation of small to medium companies in local and national schemes.
"We are going to try to bring together all the various support schemes to see how they can be of benefit to Northern Ireland," he said.
"Northern Ireland has been hit even worse than the rest of the UK because of the extent of the collapse of property values and the amount of firms which were affected by that.
"However, we cannot continue to focus on the negative, there are some very good companies in the Northern Ireland Science Park and the Titanic Quarter, the creative industries are doing really well, particularly with the success of Game of Thrones and there are lots of good growth companies like Brookvent.
"There are real success stories in Northern Ireland and that is something I am going to be taking back with me from this visit."
Mr Cable added that while he was not opposed to any measure which would help the Northern Ireland economy, he said that the impact of any fight to bring a lower level of corporation tax to Northern Ireland would be lessened by the fact that the UK rate has been falling steadily to come closer to the Republic of Ireland's 12.5% rate.
Arlene Foster said that it is important that Government schemes make an impact here.
"The national schemes are not really having an impact as yet," she said.
"Northern Ireland firms need more information as to how they can avail of help and some of the schemes could be extended or tailored to suit the unique set of issues we have here in relation to accessing finance, creating jobs and export opportunities."
Simon Hamilton added that negotiations are ongoing at a local level to encourage more lending.
"One of the problems is that nobody at a political level here has ever had direct authority for banking," he said.
"I am engaging with the British Bankers Association, Nama, the Irish banking officials and the four main banks here, to see if we can come to a solution together. The banks were hit very badly by the financial crisis and the housing market collapse and as a result are more reluctant to lend, but there are good companies here who need to grow and to take on staff and they cannot do that without access to finance."