The chief executive of Invest NI has said his organisation is committed to doing more to promote Derry and the North West generally as a location for foreign direct investment.
Alastair Hamilton has been responding to recent criticism suggesting that Invest NI has been paying too much attention to Belfast in terms of investor visits and funding.
He told the Journal that changes are on the way in an effort to drive attract more investment outside Belfast, with more emphasis on encouraging investor visits, more support, organisation changes and other initiatives.
“There’s no question that we need to do more to encourage much more investment and employment opportunities not alone in Derry city, but also in Limavady, Strabane and other areas,” he said.
Mr Hamilton confirmed he’s had discussions this week with Foyle MLA Martina Anderson about how best to work towards bringing more firms to the city.
He added that Invest NI is planning to widen its net beyond the number of companies it currently deals with. A new web-based and telephone advice service is on the way which should be of help to businesses in Derry and across the North West.
He said initiatives recently have included bringing the Invest NI international sales team to Derry for a day as part of its annual meeting, and Invest NI have also been actively encouraging link-ups with the CTRIC facility at Altnagelvin, with a number of visitors there.
Mr Hamilton said he didn’t accept criticism of efforts to attract more call centres to the city.
“Contact centres are well established in Derry and have provided many people in the city with their first step on the employment ladder, offering flexible working patterns that encourage returners to work, while also delivering training in key transferable skills.
“That’s why these type of jobs have been rated a priority as part of the Short Term Employment Scheme approved by the NI Executive, and we’re currently implementing that.”
Asked to comment on the rail-link controversy, Mr Hamilton said his view was that good transport links to the city are highly important in terms of attracting inward investment here.
“It’s about cutting down journey times between cities, and it’s not about a two hour journey time by train from Belfast to Derry,” he said.