Invest NI targets 40,000 new jobs by 2021
BUSINNESS Support agency Invest NI has helped create 5,900 jobs in the past year, driving £660m in investment and has pledged to add 40,000 further positions by 2021.
At the agency's end of year of briefing in Belfast CEO Alastair Hamilton outlined a healthy year, which saw 22 new companies chose to locate to Northern Ireland, the highest number in a decade.
He also unveiled the body's plans for growth, setting a target of 40,000 additional jobs to be created within the next four years and an increase in sales of up to £4.2 billion.
In the last financial year offers of financial support from Invest NI totalled £152 million, contributing to almost £660 million of investment in the Northern Ireland economy. This support helped promote nearly 5,600 new jobs against a target range of 4,000-6,000, a marginal increase on the previous year.
The business support agency has helped create 5,900 jobs across a broad range of sectors including agri-food, digital and creative technologies and advanced engineering and manufacturing, with the latter's exports rising by 14.6 per cent on the baseline year of 2014/15.
"Not only is Northern Ireland export performance strong, it exceeds growth levels elsewhere in the UK. We also continue to attract strong levels of inward investment, with 22 new companies choosing to locate in Northern Ireland during 2016/17," Mr Hamilton said.
"We also significantly exceeded our R&D investment target, delivering £203m of investment against a target of £100-£170m, due to a number of large R&D projects. We also saw a notable increase in investment by locally owned companies – £109m, a 93 per cent increase on the previous highest year,” said Alastair.
At the end of year briefing at Bedford House Invest NI launched its 2017-2021 Business Strategy, approved by Economy Minister Simon Hamilton in March, before he left his role.
At the centre of this growth plan are Invest NI's 1,650 business clients, who represent 57 per cent of Northern Ireland external sales and 70 per cent of exports.
They have been challenged to increase their total sales by £3.2 billion to £4.2 billion, with £2.4 to £3.1 billion coming from outside the north and between £0.8 and £1.2 billion from new export sales.
At its heart is the pledge to support and encourage 30 to 40,000 additional jobs and increase business expenditure on research and development by between £160 and £200 million.
The targets are dependant on funding and may be subject to alterations if and when a new Stormont government and Northern Ireland budget is agreed. It is understood there is scope for tweaks to the strategy in line with a possible change in priorities from a new department minister.
Chairman of the Invest NI board Mark Ennis said they decided to proceed with the development of the business strategy to provide "clarity" to businesses and staff.
"The strategy provides a clear route to help deliver a strong, competitive, regionally balanced economy," he said.
"While we recognise that these targets may need to be revised once the NI Executive's priorities and final budgets are agreed, the Strategy will support the development of an innovative, creative society where people can fulfil their potential and help to create a place where people what to live and work, to visit and invest.”
It is understood that Invest NI will make a number of new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) announcements over the summer, but will hold off until after the General Election on June 8 to begin this process.