The outgoing Chief Executive of Invest Northern Ireland has said that the number of jobs and investment it has been involved in bringing to Derry over the past year, is double that of the previous year.
Alastair Hamilton - who is stepping down from his post this year- was responding after local councillors recently accused Invest NI of having an “extremely poor” record in Derry and Strabane.
Various councillors criticised Invest NI’s performance locally, during a meeting of Derry’s Business & Culture Committee last month.
Speaking during a jobs announcement in Derry last week, Mr. Hamilton told the ‘Journal’: “It’s up to other people to judge performance, not for me to say whether it is good or bad, but if you look back over the last 12 months this is the seventh announcement that we have made in this city.
“That leverages about £42m worth of investment across those seven announcements, it supports 800 brand new jobs and our investment in that is just over £4m.
“Those figures, the jobs figures and the investment figures are up over 100 per cent over this last year, so I hope that goes some way to addressing what people feel, believe or perceive about our performance.”
He added: “All I can say is I gave a commitment a few years ago whenever the community plan was being developed, to work proactively with the elected representatives; with the council officers to develop an economic plan that was ideally suited to this region and this city and once that was developed we would go out and promote it.”
The ‘Journal’ had asked Mr. Hamilton for a response to concerns raised by local representatives during discussions on a new Global Export Programme, which is being developed jointly by Derry City & Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council to help more local businesses grow by selling their goods and services internationally.
SDLP Councillor Sinead McLaughlin - a former CEO of Derry’s Chamber of Commerce - while welcoming the bespoke programme, had said that this was what Invest NI was funded to do and was ‘completely their remit.’
She said: “I am commending this project because I do think it is necessary. We can do it for ourselves, but it is regrettable we have to do it for ourselves. The track record of Invest NI for this region has been extremely poor,” she claimed.
UUP Alderman Derek Hussey said: “For some considerable time there has been a concern as to Invest NI’s commitment to our area.”
Sinn Fein Colr. Mickey Cooper said his party too have been concerned with Invest NI’s commitment for “many, many years.”
A spokesperson for Invest NI responded at the time that Invest NI: “To claim that Invest NI has a poor track record in the region is unfounded.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Derry & Strabane Council said that council has been working on a number of collaborative projects with both Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland as well as partners in Donegal County Council to drive growth.