Derry investor visit tally shock

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood

For every one potential investor brought to Derry last year by InvestNI, eleven were taken to Belfast, new figures reveal.

The figures, released by the north’s enterprise Minster Arlene Foster show that last year InvestNI organised 82 potential inward investor trips to the Belfast District Council area . Over the same period only seven trips were organised for Derry.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood says the figures again tell a story “of regional inequality and a story of economic neglect.”

“Ultimately though, it’s a story showing a lack of political will,” he says.

The figures reveal that a total of 30 visits were made to Derry between 2009 and 2012. Over the same time period no inward investment visits were organised by InvestNI for the Strabane District Council area while one visit was made to Limavady Council area.

But in that three year timeframe 44 visits were organised in Newtownabbey while in Belfast a total of 213 visits have been arranged since 2009.

“These latest figures not only reveal a disparity in terms of the number of site visits, they also show an equally disgraceful trend,” Mr Eastwood says.

“For some time now I have been urging Stormont’s leadership to give Invest NI the political direction to enact an active policy of fair and regional job creation.

“I am now asking for other local political parties to get behind this call. This is as much a political problem as it is an economic one.”

The former Mayor of Derry says while no one doubts the current challenging economic times, the scale of the “disparity between the figures east and west of the Bann paints a picture of deep, proven neglect.”

Meanwhile it has also been revealed that Derry’s Project Kelvin ‘telehouse’ has no influence over potential investors.

DUP minister Arlene Foster says investment location is “not linked to a Project Kelvin point of presence”.

Instead, she says, investors look for a range of other factors including availability of skilled labour and availability of office space when choosing a location .

The ‘telehouse’ is one of eight Project Kelvin points of presence and is where Kelvin’s underwater transatlantic cable connects to the north’s existing communications infrastructure.

It was also the source of a major political row, when it was announced the facility was to be built in Coleraine rather than Derry - despite earlier assurances the city would be the ‘telehouse’ location.

But pressure on the Stormont Assembly saw that decision overturned in 2009.