Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI funding leads to creation of 9,410 jobs last year: Up 40% and highest ever levels

By Margaret Canning

Invest NI funding led to the creation of 9,410 jobs during the year 2014/15 - up 40% on the year before and the highest ever, according to results given to the Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee today. Chief executive Alastair Hamilton said “he had never seen the like of it” during the 12 months - in which Invest NI surpassed all targets set in the Programme for Government, with the exception of manufacturing exports.

Invest NI secured £1.4bn in investment during the year, and there were 25 new investors setting up in Northern Ireland during that time, an increase of nearly 40% - including Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s biggest law firms. 

While 9,410 jobs had been created on the ground by firms receiving assistance, 13,829 jobs had been secured by firms who had given undertakings to Invest NI after receiving assistance.

But Mr  Hamilton told MLAs in the committee that action was needed to hasten the devolution of corporation tax - a measure which has been delayed by failure of the Executive parties to sign up to Welfare Reform.

He said the pipeline of new jobs was slower this year and that certainty  on corporation tax would make a difference.

“Corporation tax is a big opportunity.  We have built a pipeline of opportunities and who are warm at the moment on having a unique  proposition in Northern Ireland in costs and tax and we are a little frustrated that that is not happening at the minute. 

“To turn that warm feeling and interest into real deliverables, we really need to kick on.”

The best way of delivering further job creation was by corporation tax, he said.   

Mr Hamilton said legal services had developed “very strongly”.  “It was a momentous decision by Baker & McKenzie to come here and invest in Belfast.

“Who would have thought 10 years ago that the world’s number one law firm would have set up a legal and combined services centre here in Belfast.”

Other major legal firms operating offices in Belfast were Allen & Overy and Axiom, he said, adding: “We continue to seek more opportunities for Northern Ireland around the legal services cluster.”

 He said 91% of the agency’s offers of help were made to SMEs, while 75% in volume terms of offers made were to firms outside Belfast.  The assistance to homegrown successes outside Belfast such as Randox in Crumlin, First Derivatives in Newry, Almac in Craigavon and Dunbia in Dungannon was particularly crucial, Mr Hamilton said. 

“If you look at the local companies and the growth on a sub-regional basis, my desire to reach out to First Derivatives, the Wrightbuses, the Dunbias and Moy Parks - those are the companies that can really create employment in sub-regional areas, and we will continue to support and encourage those companies.

And he defended the agency’s record on attracting large numbers of call centre companies, saying that their efforts provided work for people who’d otherwise be unemployed. 

He said the agency had also sought to increase jobs in the professional services sector after diversifying from a strong focus on IT “due to some concerns over skills pipeline”.

He said the Jobs Fund was now closing - a fund which was set up to create large numbers of jobs in a quicker period of time than normal Northern Ireland

Mr Hamilton said export targets to increase manufacturing exports by 20% had not been reached and said services exports and external sales to Great Britain were not counted. 

Exports were £90m short of the £6.8bn target. 

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