Belfast Telegraph

Rebuilding the builders is priority, says Wilson

By Clare Weir

The Finance Minister has been visiting firms involved in the construction and quarrying industry to highlight their contribution to the Northern Ireland economy.

Sammy Wilson called in to Smiley Monroe Ltd, a family-owned firm employing 90 people, and Temple Quarry, both in Lisburn.

Smiley Monroe is set to open a sales office in New Delhi in the New Year. Established in 1979, it is one of Europe's largest producers of conveyor belts for a number of different sectors. Temple Quarry is run by Whitemountain Quarries Ltd, a division of Lagan, one of Ireland's most successful construction companies.

Mr Wilson said that rebuilding the construction industry was a top priority.

"We need to build a sustainable construction industry and ensure that high quality businesses can flourish," he said.

"Government recognises the contribution the construction industry makes to the economy of Northern Ireland and is looking at the capital budget to ascertain what can be done to stimulate this sector."

Last month's Construction Industry Group report showed that public sector construction output in 2010 was worth just over £1m, amounting to a spend of £590 per head - 16% less than the UK average.

One of the group members, the Quarry Products Association of Northern Ireland, has warned that with reduced public spending, lack of credit and the "enormous" levels of bad debt within the construction industry, 2012 could see a significant number of companies going out of business.

However, investment in sectors, including renewable energy, has presented a major boost for the construction and aggregates sector with the development of the DONG windfarm hub at Belfast Harbour, creating 150 construction jobs and 1m tonnes of stone from Northern Ireland quarries.

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