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Sights set on almost 5000 new jobs for borough in next 15 years

Craigavon Civic Centre

It has been estimated that close to 5000 jobs will be created in the borough over the next 15 years.

And Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, at its meeting this week, agreed to plans to drive economic development, with the need to form international linkages key to the success.

To this end, it has been agreed to stage a major economic conference in the area to look to the future.

Individually the three councils have built up strong international linkages on a crossborder, EU and international basis.

The size and diversity of the new council area – the biggest outside Belfast – means that a more ambitious and aggressive approach through an international relations framework can be taken to building relationships and pursuing opportunities for the advantage of the borough.

The council plans to continue to work closely with Invest Northern Ireland to attract new business and build on the recent success of the newly announced Eishtec investment. Eishtec, an outsourced contact centre, opened new premises in Silverwood, creating 320 new jobs.

During the course of a presentation, councillors were informed that the borough has a strong manufacturing base, providing 14% (10,300 jobs) of all manufacturing employment in Northern Ireland, with particular strengths in agri-food production and life sciences.

Key growth areas in the borough over the next 15 years will be in the construction, agricultural, and admin and support service sectors.

These will account for 3,700 of the 4,700 jobs that are forecast to be created in this time period.

The council wants ongoing engagement with some of the larger companies in the borough. It will be aiming to attract inward investment, absorb and develop new economic development, regeneration and tourism functions, and develop partnerships with other councils with Lord Mayoralty status.

During the course of a debate which followed, Independent Councillor Paul Berry said he was happy to support the presentation, adding that it was important for council to work with key individuals in the growth fields of construction and agriculture to ensure creation of employment and prosperity.

He suggested an international engagement strategy should be looked into along with partnerships with other councils with Lord Mayorality status.

He also stressed the importance of engaging with the large companies in the borough with offices outside of Northern Ireland and building strong international linkages.

Sinn Fein Councillor Brendan Curran said the role of the Mayor was key and that businesses coming into the area and business across the world required a point of contact, which should be the Mayor. He also suggested bringing disparate groups together to ensure they all buy-in to the idea and that tourism benefits any business.

The Strategic Director of Regeneration and Development said it was important that the message is promoted that council is open for business with the ‘joined up’ powers.

The priority was to attract investment into the area and that this was a ‘can do’ council; growth sectors would be highlighted and work undertaken with the existing businesses to make their plans a reality.

She referred to the Area Plan and assured councillors that economic focus was a key priority in this regard.

The Strategic Director said that analysis would be undertaken on job creation and information brought back to committee.

She further advised that infrastructure needs were critical for the area and also work would be undertaken on business needs, influencing government policy and infrastructure projects. She undertook to bring back information to committee on overall queries.

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