The President of Derry’s Chamber Commerce has said the city’s economy is “moving in the right direction” but added that pressure still needs to be put on Stormont to provide key improvements to the city’s infrastructure.
Speaking at the Chamber’s annual dinner last Friday, Chamber President Gerry Kindlon said: “What we need to do is predict and prepare for the future better than others. In fact, we have already started.
“In Derry/Strabane, 3.4% of the workforce are employed in the ‘Information and Communications’ sector. This is 40% higher than the Northern Ireland average. Outside of greater Belfast, Derry has the greatest density of knowledge economy jobs in NI.
“I believe we collectively have created a brand that fits with a city that can prosper in the knowledge economy. Initiatives such as Digital Derry, Imagine Create have helped. CultureTech continues to be a huge marketing tool for the city as well as a vehicle for educating our youth for the future. The North West Science Park is full of youthful, dynamic companies.
“We have been able to attract Metaverse Mod Squad and One Source to the city this summer. If you talk to the executives of these companies, you will find they are more than excited about our city. Talking about their reasons for coming here they mention skills, government assistance, office space, etc, but they also talk about the ‘buzz’: the feeling that something special could happen here.
“Sometimes we focus too much on the assets that the city doesn’t have and forget about those it has. Take our port, for example. Foyle port is the North West regional gateway and has attracted more than £100 million in investment in recent years. The value of trade handled through the port is estimated at over £1 billion annually, supporting 1,000 jobs. It has developed significantly as an energy hub over recent years. And it is looking to a more sustainable future. The new renewable energy power station for ERE developments is currently in the final stages of development and will provide 10% of NI’s renewable energy.
“We have just celebrated 150 years of Magee University. Whilst our focus remains on increasing the size and scale of the university here, we should not forget the excellence that exists on campus today. We should note that in the midst of this year’s cuts, that Computing, Manufacturing Engineering and the Business School will now be centred at Magee. Combined with the excellent teams already in place in Creative Technologies and Stratified medicine, these departments could not be more economically relevant. They can propel this city forward as a centre for advanced manufacturing and digital and innovative excellence. Meanwhile, the North West Regional College continues to evolve and is more engaged with business than ever before.
“For many reasons I’m confident that we are moving in the right direction. However, there are areas of concern.
“Skills will be the battle ground in the new world economy. It is desperately disappointing that the Northern Ireland Executive still has not committed publicly and collectively to the expansion of Magee. This Chamber will continue to lobby tirelessly until it does. Similarly, with our road infrastructure. Whilst we are heartened by renewed optimism surrounding the A5 road to Dublin, the fact is very little has been delivered to date on either the A5 or the A6. Much more needs to be done to improve our infrastructure.”