A bid by six Northern Ireland councils to secure a City Deal for the Belfast region has the potential to create 20,000 new jobs in a "once in a generation opportunity", it's been claimed.
Business people and officials attended a Westminster reception yesterday, where they said a Belfast Region City Deal would secure £1bn investment over a 10-year programme of "inclusive economic growth".
Belfast City Council is making the bid for a City Deal with councils Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ards and North Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mid and East Antrim and Newry and Down.
They are working with universities, colleges and the Northern Ireland Civil Service on making the case for a City Deal, which would give the region more power to improve its economy.
It's hoped Chancellor Philip Hammond will commit to a City Deal in his Budget next Monday.
Addressing the reception, Sinn Fein Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey said: "We've developed a genuine partnership and collaboration through this process and together we're creating real momentum to deliver a decade of significant investment to boost inclusive economic growth, create up to 20,000 new and better jobs and £470m Gross Value Added (GVA).
"We're absolutely focused on accelerating growth - helping our local businesses become more competitive, making the region a global investment destination and ensuring that we make a positive difference to those living in our most deprived communities."
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said the bid was "an exciting, once in a generation opportunity".
He added: "The Belfast Region City Deal could see £1bn of investment across a number of key sectors and has the potential to leverage up to £4bn of investment from the private sector.
"The Belfast region has seen significant progress in recent years, with record levels of foreign direct investment and thousands of new jobs created, but there remain a number of barriers to growth in Belfast and the surrounding area; namely low productivity, economic inactivity, skills gaps and a need to invest in an ageing infrastructure.
"This City Deal can help us to address these barriers, prepare for future jobs markets and have a transformative impact on the lives of people living, working and visiting the Belfast region."