Derry investor visit shock

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood. 1301JM03
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood. 1301JM03

More than 40 times more potential international investors visited Belfast than visited Derry last year in trips hosted by Invest NI, it has been revealed.

New figures released by the north’s enterprise Minster Arlene Foster in response to a Parliamentary Question asked by Derry SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood, show that Invest NI hosted a total of 171 (both first time and repeat visits) international investor visits to the four parliamentary constituencies in Belfast during 2012/13 - yet only four first time prospective investors were brought to Foyle over the same time frame.

Mr Eastwood said the latest figures put an onus on Stormont’s leadership to “admit the glaring inequality at the heart of their economic delivery.”

“Stormont’s leadership, in particular our resident Deputy First Minister, need to come to the understanding that an economy exists beyond the boundaries of Belfast,” the SDLP MLA told the ‘Journal.’

“The pertinence of these figures is that international investors are not even gaining the chance to see Derry as an attractive location for business. If they don’t know what we have to offer first hand, they won’t invest. That needs to change.”

DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said it is “important to clarify that location decisions are a matter for individual companies, which can take time and are the subject of considerable international competition.”

Ms Foster said Invest NI’s policy is to focus on “selling Northern Ireland as a whole.”

She said investors are keen to reduce risk “by locating their businesses in areas where they can draw on a large pool of skilled labour and where they believe investment and cost risk will be minimised.”

But Mr Eastwood said that logic would curry little favour in the north west.

“I am all too aware that such explanations will draw understandable cynicism from this city, however, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

“If ever Derry’s demand for a vastly expanded university needed further validation, surely this stated need for ‘a large pool of skilled labour’ provides it,” he said.

The figures further reveal that last year only three potential international investment visits were made to East Derry, and none made to West Tyrone.