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Four times as many investment visits to Belfast than the rest of the north combined

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton pictured last week as US business aPriori announced a new office in Belfast, creating 15 jobs with support from Invest NI. The Executive has been criticised for favouring Belfast over other areas of the north for investment. Picture by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Gareth McKeown

THERE were four times as many Executive-led investment opportunities in Belfast last year than the rest of Northern Ireland combined. it has been revealed.

Of the 242 Invest NI-hosted visits for potential investors last year 194 were in Belfast, while there were only 48 for the rest of the north.

The new figures, released by economy minister Simon Hamilton show there a wasn't single investment opportunity in Lagan Valley, compared to 23 in 2013/14, while the areas of Mid Ulster, North Antrim and Upper Bann received just one visit each last year.

By contrast south Belfast had 112 visits, almost double the number of the previous year (61). The number of visits made to the east and north of the city also increased significantly more than anywhere else in Northern Ireland in the same period.

Foyle, home to Northern Ireland's second largest city Derry, had 12 industry visits last year.

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty, who obtained the figures, said the Executive had an "abysmal" record of promoting areas outside of Belfast to investors.

"The facts are simple, this Executive lacks the drive and ambition to promote areas outside of Belfast," he said.

"Despite their honeyed words, the gross disparity Invest NI have shown here puts to bed any notion that the Executive are interested in developing the economy anywhere outside Belfast. My constituents may get a token job announcement and the obligatory ministerial photo-op but these figures clearly reveal that the Executive's strategy remains not Belfast centric, but almost Belfast exclusive," he added.

In response to the figures Invest NI strongly refuted suggestions it favoured Belfast over other areas in the north for investment.

"Visits are scheduled to meet the needs of an investor, who chooses the different locations to visit based on a range of criteria and best fit with its business needs," a spokesman said.

"Invest NI promotes Northern Ireland as an investment location, competing with countries and regions around the world.

"We work closely with local councils in the development of their economic development plans, and in identifying their unique selling points that will help attract investment. There is absolutely no preferential treatment given to a specific constituency," he added.

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