Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Invest NI accused of discriminating against north west as figures on investor visits are revealed

Invest NI has been accused of failing the north west after the latest figures on investor visits were released by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

The region received just seven visits compared to 82 for the Belfast area over the past 12 months — a ratio of one to 11.

Foyle SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood says that shows Invest NI is discriminating against the north west.

Comparisons going back to 2009 paint an even bleaker picture for the wider north west. While 30 visits to Derry occurred during this three-year period, not a single visit to Strabane was made and just one to Limavady was organised by Invest NI.

Mr Eastwood says it is now time for positive discrimination to redress the balance.

He said: “For far too long Derry and the north west generally has been negatively discriminated against so a bit of positive discrimination would not go amiss now.

“Derry has a good story to tell but the message is not reaching the potential investors and that is down to a lack of obvious promotion from Invest NI who are not promoting our assets, not least of which is an able and willing workforce.

“I would like to see an approach similar to that in the Republic, where 50% of investment must be outside of Dublin and Cork, to be introduced by the Assembly and I would call on all other local politicians to get behind this call.

“No one doubts the current challenging economic time but the scale of disparity between the figures east and west of the Bann paints a picture of deep, proven neglect and we can only judge Invest NI on their results.”

These sentiments were echoed by Michaela Boyle MLA for Strabane where records show Invest NI did not take any potential investors on a visit to the town.

She added: “One of the main factors cited by Invest NI was a lack of available land and I know of four potential investors who contacted us directly where the lack of land was a factor but since 2006 we have lobbied Invest NI to address the issue and as a result there is now a 44-acre site under development.

“Given this development, it is extremely concerning that no investment has been brought to Strabane, given that within the Programme for Government it states that areas of greater social deprivation should be prioritised.

“Invest NI no longer have any excuse for not bringing potential investors to the north west and we will all wait with bated breath to see what the next figures show.”

A spokesman for Invest NI defended the body’s record.

He said: “Invest Northern Ireland supports business growth and economic development across all areas of Northern Ireland.

“Over the last three years, 594 offers of assistance were made by Invest NI to companies in the Derry District Council area, including Cornerstone Automation Systems (CASI) UK Ltd and Crescent Diagnostics.

“Our assistance of almost £25m in the last three years has contributed towards a total planned investment of almost £110m, promoting 952 new jobs and safeguarding 47.

“Invest NI has a very successful track record of attracting high quality Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which will benefit the whole of the region. Invest NI encourages international investors to locate in any area in which their business will grow and thrive.”

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