Manufacturing wins Assembly Backing
Calls to the Northern Ireland Executive to safeguard the future of manufacturing as the primary engine of economic growth were made by Assembly members.
Leslie Cree and Alan McFarland proposed: “That this Assembly notes with concern the growing negative impact of the current economic downturn on small and medium sized enterprises; recognises that global economic circumstances have significantly restricted the flow of Foreign Direct Investment; and calls on the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to refocus her Department’s policies and resources on support for small and medium sized enterprises.”
Leslie Cree: speaking in the Assembly, said:
“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Northern Ireland’s economy, accounting for 81% of private-sector employment and 79% of private-sector turnover. Moreover, 99% of private sector enterprises are small businesses that employ fewer than 50 people.
“In the current recession, those businesses are suffering. In the media, we rightly hear much when larger companies lay off significant numbers of people. However, there is little coverage of the constant flow of businesses that are laying workers off one, two or five at a time. Projections suggest that up to 15,000 jobs are under threat and that unemployment could rise to 50,000 by 2010.”
He called on DETI and Invest NI to make the survival of locally-owned SMEs a priority ahead of inward investment projects.
He said: “Although the Minister is tied to delivering the notional FDI targets in the Programme for Government, resources will be wasted and time will be lost to help indigenous businesses survive the recession, so that they might emerge on the other side in a more competitive and healthy position. Mr Cree also gave his support to Northern Ireland Manufacturing’s recently policy paper ‘Manufacturing Counts’.
Mr Cree called for:
Invest Northern Ireland to become more original in
order to help Northern Ireland businesses become more innovative
A less bureaucratic and more targeted service for small local businesses
A halt to the pursuit of unachievable targets
More vigorous promotion of support for local companies
More support for local companies to promote themselves internationally
Further help for companies to reduce overheads, retain employment and increase productivity
Basil McCrea said: “ I want to hear from the Minister, her Department and her Executive colleagues what exactly their ambition is for Northern Ireland. What is the Minister’s vision for the economic future of this place? How will Northern Ireland make its way in the world? I very much suspect that it will not be on the basis of a return to a construction boom that is based on housing. We must find some way of adding value that can be invested in our other services. I want the Minister to be a business champion.”