Derry’s foreign investor shocker

Only 49 of 1,000 visits to the North by potential foreign investors in the past five years were to Derry, new figures reveal.

The statistics also disclose that almost 70% of the overall number of foreign direct investment (FDI) visits between 2006 and 2011 - a total of 986 - were to Belfast.

In contrast, there were no visits to Strabane and just two to Limavady.

The new figures - released via a Freedom of Information request - also reveal that, of 147 FDI projects located in the North in this period, just eight were in Derry while 103 were in Belfast.

In 2008-09, there were no FDI jobs created in Derry while, in 2009-10, there was just one.

Meanwhile, in the same period, Belfast had 88% of the projects and 95% of all jobs created.

Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson says the figures underscore Invest NI’s failure to address the issue of regional disparity.

“These statistics confirm the criticisms that I have been making of Invest NI’s failure to deliver short, medium and long-term strategies to tackle the issue of regional disparities - particularly in areas like Derry. But I am hopeful that Invest NI CEO Alastair Hamilton is now in listening mode and I have been working closely with him on a number of projects recently which, if they come to fruition, will, hopefully, act as the impetus for further FDI.

“I believe that regional disparities is one area that Invest NI has failed dramatically in since its inception with the impression given that so long as it can get regular headlines with jobs announcements in Belfast that is all that is required of it.

“I have, at times, felt a lonely voice in my criticisms of Invest NI when exposing how it routinely failed to bring investment to the North West region while squandering millions of pounds on a new headquarters in Belfast which it didn’t need, rented empty buildings in Derry and favoured attracting investment into more affluent regions. “These latest statistics provide further evidence of the need for a complete restructuring and refocusing of Invest NI strategy if we are to change the approach it presently adopts to developing the economy.”

Martina Anderson says Invest NI’s “past practice” fixation that call-centre type jobs are good enough for the North West has to be challenged and refocused on attracting high value jobs in areas such as research and development.

“Attempting to maintain a low wage economy in the North West has proved disastrous for the local economy as it is prone to attracting transient investors who are continually on the look-out for an even lower wage economy to transfer its operations to when the grants here run out.

“It is also imperative that Invest NI move beyond the world of favoured ‘clients’ where the same 10% of applicants continue to receive over 75% of support to all businesses. If such a favoured approach is to be adopted, I believe it should be towards indigenous industry and R&D.”