Manufacturing is at its highest level since 2008
Northern Ireland can once again be one of the world's economic powerhouses, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has said as he denied claims of a manufacturing crisis.
There was heartache last week when manufacturing heavyweight Caterpillar announced it is seeking up to 250 redundancies as well as the potential closure of its Monkstown plant.
However, Mr Hamilton said while he is aware recent job losses at Caterpillar, Bombardier, JTI and Michelin are devastating blows for those affected, he insisted the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland is strong.
Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Hamilton said the number of manufacturing jobs is currently the highest since 2008 (80,000). He also said that manufacturing sales are up 1.7% to £18.1bn, manufacturing exports are up £350m to £6.3bn; and manufacturing output is up 2.4% - outperforming the UK average.
There have been calls for Stormont to publish a stand-alone manufacturing strategy from some in the sector, and the Ulster Unionist Party has vowed to raise the matter when the Assembly returns in September.
However, Mr Hamilton said he does not believe that would make any difference.
"The Executive does have an Economic Strategy which has policies, initiatives and targets on innovation, growth, exports and skills that all assist manufacturing," he said. "If I honestly thought that a document with the title of 'a manufacturing strategy' would have any impact on the announcements by firms like Caterpillar, JTI or Michelin, I would have launched it weeks ago." Mr Hamilton insisted that our economy is heading in the right direction and said we can once again become one of the world's economic powerhouses.
"Everywhere I go I see our entrepreneurial spirit in action across all sectors of our economy," he said.
"It is my job to work with business to put in place the skills, tax system and infrastructure to make us the globally competitive economy we know we can be."