Diane Dodds says £81m from Invest NI delivered £439m and 4,280 jobs in North West when quizzed about Derry economic under-performance
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Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson asked: "Can you outline how Invest NI's overseas team engages with prospective foreign direct investors who might come to a city like Derry? How does it market the talent and skills that Derry has to offer? In the time ahead, will you market Derry, in the context of tackling regional disparities?"
Mrs. Dodds replied: "Over the last five years for which figures are available, Invest NI has offered £81 million of assistance to local businesses located in the north-west.
"That is with the north-west being defined as having Invest NI's regional area office, which covers the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area and the Derry City and Strabane District Council area. That assistance will have delivered £439 million in support of the creation of 4,280 jobs across the region. I understand that Invest NI plan to publish its latest figures for 2019-2020 in the reasonably near future.
"As I said, my economic strategy will be central not just to the recovery from COVID, but to Northern Ireland's future going into its second century. Central to that will be producing an economy that has greater skills, is more regionally balanced and greener and that looks to grab the opportunities of the future.
"We will invest in the core of our economy, which is our manufacturing, our agri-food, our tourism sector, but we will also look to where the new job opportunities are and to where we can create them.
"Central to that, of course, will be the work of the city deals. I have been to Magee university, and I was extremely impressed by the forward-looking approach to those areas of the economy that will bring more and better-skilled jobs and investment for the future."
The Minister was also asked by SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan about economic under-performance in Derry.
"The north-west is the worst-performing sub-regional economy on these islands. I could ask a supplementary question about the failure to expand the university, one about the tug of war that is ongoing with the medical school or one about Invest NI's record in the north-west, but all those issues are symptomatic of failed economic policy.
"The Minister talks about a new strategy: strategy is one thing, but policy is another. The last independent review of economic policy took place in 2009. Will the Minister commit to a fresh independent review of economic policy here?" he asked.
In response the minister said: "I am committed to an economic strategy that is for all of Northern Ireland, that is inclusive of all of Northern Ireland and that gives us balanced regional growth across the whole of Northern Ireland but, importantly, an economic strategy that captures all that we do best and grabs the opportunities for the future.
"That is why I announced the Economic Advisory Group and why, this week, I will talk to a group of stakeholders in my Department, right across the full spectrum of the economy, about the important opportunities for the whole of Northern Ireland.
"In relation to the important economic development opportunities in the north-west, on May 22, the local council submitted the strategic outline cases for two innovation and two digital projects to my Department and to the UK Government for approval. We are committed to assessing those projects and getting them back out, because they will drive economic growth in the council area."