Invest NI job promotion work hailed
More than 7,500 jobs were promoted in Northern Ireland from foreign companies during the last four years, a new report has revealed.
Government agency Invest NI also increased research and development by firms it works with threefold, comptroller and auditor general Kieran Donnelly said.
The NI Audit Office has published a performance review of Invest NI which says: "This performance was particularly commendable given the previous low levels of research and development investment in Northern Ireland and the present difficult economic climate."
The jobs were promoted from 2008 to 2011 after foreign companies decided to site new operations or expand existing commitments in Northern Ireland following offers of financial support from Invest NI.
After 2013 the agency may be unable to offer selective financial assistance to companies to help them create posts because of changes in European regulations which control government interference in the economy.
The report by Mr Donnelly said: "In the light of likely changes to Northern Ireland's regional aid status, it is important that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and Invest NI examine alternative assistance options for growing the economy."
The report said DETI and Invest NI had not yet identified the most effective alternative way of using funding to promote economic development.
It said there was uncertainty over the degree to which the promotion or anticipation of jobs by Invest NI had translated into posts actually being created. The most reliable estimate suggests that 21,000 of the 28,000 jobs promoted between 2002 and 2008 were created, although not all may have been fully attributable to the assistance provided by Invest NI.
The report said Invest NI's performance over the last nine years showed steady progress measured against the targets it has set. In its first nine years, Invest NI spent £1.5 billion. This includes £674 million on selective financial assistance, £208 million on research and development, £111 million on company development and training and £30 million on its start-a-business programmes.
Invest NI estimates that this promoted more than 42,600 new jobs, safeguarded over 19,400 jobs and planned investment of £5.5 billion in the Northern Ireland economy.