Tesco's jobs boost for employment blackspot
More than 300 jobs are to be created in one of Northern Ireland's biggest employment blackspots.
Tesco Newry Extra at Downshire Road opens its doors to the public on Thursday.
The 63,000 sq ft store represents a multi-million pound investment in the city and will include 600 free car parking spaces, free wifi and a cafe.
The Newry and Mourne area has 3,625 people out of work. The 330 jobs will include 34 temporary employees who will have the chance to become full-time.
A number of existing Tesco employees who live in Newry are transferring to the new store, enabling them to work closer to home while the new store is also the first Tesco branch in Northern Ireland to hire eight long-term unemployed young people from the Youth Employment Scheme (Yes) with the prospect of a job.
The young people, who are all aged under 25, will take part in a four-week training programme at Tesco which could secure them a post at the end of the scheme.
It is hoped the new store will help stimulate cross-border trade.
Tesco is also expected to reveal plans shortly for a major new initiative aimed at offering local Newry artisan companies an opportunity to showcase their products in the new store as part of its commitment to promoting the sales of local food and drink.
Tesco Newry Extra manager Stephen Magill said the new branch is the best he has seen in 20 years of working for the firm.
"The highest unemployment in the province is among 18- to 25-year-olds and Tesco is committed to giving young people an opportunity," he said.
Tesco has appointed Shelagh Smyth (28) from Annalong as its Community Champion. She will act as a Tesco ambassador by forging links with the community.
Schools, youth clubs, charities and pensioners can benefit from the Community Champion's role who can help with everything from fundraising to providing space in the store for meetings.
"I can help people with publicity or organise bag packing," she said. "This allows charities and other groups to gain exposure to the huge number of customers who come here to shop.
"There is also free advertising on our community board. I believe it is important that Tesco as a large company coming into Newry shows from the beginning that what we are going to do will make a lasting contribution."