Belfast Telegraph

£750,000 move to help Derry cash in on yacht race and culture year

By Brendan McDaid

Derry City Council has set aside almost £750,000 for a new economic development plan going into the City of Culture year.

Among the key priorities for 2012/13 in Londonderry will be expanding business start-ups, growing tourism by 8% and promoting the economic vitality of the city centre.

It will also strive to improve the employability and skills of citizens, particularly those “furthest from the labour market”, ensuring their skills match the needs of the economy.

A total of £746,685 has been allocated from the rates to go towards the overall cost of various projects outlined in the new plan, which is being bolstered by several million pounds from other sources.

A large chunk of the total funding will be used to help businesses and potential entrepreneurs maximise opportunities which come from this summer’s stopover by the Clipper Yacht race fleet and the UK City of Culture year in 2013.

A council officer told the committee yesterday that the plan was designed “to make Derry a better place in which to live, work and do business”.

He said: “In line with the strategic vision for the city's continued economic growth and prosperity, as identified in the One Plan and the Northern Ireland Regional Development Strategy, council's economic development activities span across six key thematic economic drivers.”

These are: business, enterprise and inward investment; developing people; tourism development; city centre economic renewal; rural development; and enabling strategic policy and infrastructure

Money and resources will also be provided to host inward investment visits, and to develop investor aftercare.

Development committee chairman, SDLP councillor Martin Reilly, said there were “certainly a lot of very exciting proposals and plans for the next 12 months going into the City of Culture year”.

His party colleague Brenda Stevenson said that a lot of thought had gone into the plan.

DUP councillor April Garfield-Kidd said that marketing was key to Derry’s prosperity. She said: “After such a successful Jazz Festival we need to keep the ball rolling and keep the interest in the city rolling. That can only be advanced with improved marketing.”

Meanwhile, Derry town clerk Sharon O’Connor confirmed recruitment was now under way to staff a dedicated European Union funding unit in Derry to maximise inward investment.

“I would like to think that by the end of the summer we would have it established and properly structured,” she said.

Background

Recent regeneration boosts for city include:

  • Securing £2.5m of external funding towards the Guildhall restoration project.
  • Securing £1.4m of funding towards the implementation of the Walled City lighting strategy.
  • £1.09m external funding committed for rural projects.
  • The completion of Digital Derry phase 1.
  • Closure of the Peace III phase 1 North West with 96% spend achieved.
  • Securing of £946,472 for business support programme to maximise the opportunities from Clipper race and City of Culture.


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