Belfast Telegraph

This deal will have significant benefits for the region and the entire economy

By Deirdre Hargey

I'm genuinely excited by the opportunities which a Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) can unlock for us.

We've been working intensively in genuine partnership with the five other local regional authorities, the two universities and the further education colleges behind the scenes for more than two years.

Together, we're creating real momentum for inclusive, economic growth.

This deal presents us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver a decade of significant investment, creating 20,000 new and better paid jobs and £470m GVA (gross value added).

We want to make the region a global investment destination.

And for me, just as importantly, we want to ensure that we make a positive difference to those living in our most deprived communities by creating access to skills and jobs.

We're focusing on areas of our economy where we can lead the way: innovation, digital development and tourism-led regeneration.

That will be supported by infrastructure and underpinned by employability and skills programmes to make sure that people can access and deliver the jobs that will be created - and realise their full potential. We've already established world class expertise in cybersecurity - and we're capable of global leadership in other areas of digital innovation, including Life and Health Sciences, Creative Industries and Advanced Manufacturing.

There's been major growth in our tourism sector - for every hotel room that's built, that creates another job.

But we're also really aware of the need to tackle challenges around infrastructure, low productivity, economic inactivity and low skill levels here.

We've given all of those challenges and opportunities careful consideration in preparing our proposal, and, with cross-party political support and significant backing from the private sector, we're going to negotiate for the best deal possible - a deal that will have significant benefits not only for the Belfast region, but for the entire economy.

The BRCD partners are supportive of a deal for the North West and we're keen to ensure that both deals complement one another, so that benefits flow to all areas.

Already, the City Deal process has helped to establish a genuinely collaborative working relationship across the region and is spearheading a new way of working for councils, the broader public sector, education and business.

And, in an exciting and innovative approach, BRCD partners Queen's University and Ulster University are working together to develop integrated projects in Digital, Creative Industries, Advanced Manufacturing and Health, to invigorate the economy, with Belfast Metropolitan College and other key stakeholders developing a Belfast Regional Skills strategy.

Councillor Deirdre Hargey is the Lord Mayor of Belfast

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