Sat 6th Jul 2013
Apr 2013: Now is the right time to zone in on enterprise
By Mark Nodder, President, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce
Now is time to zone in on enterprising exporters
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce is fully committed to continuing the lobby for Corporation Tax devolution. We still believe strongly that it will make Northern Ireland more attractive to inward investors.
We did however listen with interest to reports of the Prime Minister’s promise of an interim economic pact particularly as it included mention of an Enterprise Zone covering Northern Ireland. In February 2011, the chamber launched its blueprint for the setting-up of an enterprise zone across Northern Ireland.
The document reiterated the chamber’s call for an enterprise zone to be established right across Northern Ireland to help stimulate job creation and grow the private sector, and mapped out the steps required to do so. A follow-up to the chamber’s Enabling Economic Excellence manifesto, which set out the pathway for rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy, the blueprint identified three key steps which must be followed for the successful development of a zone.
Specifically, the chamber asked that the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive take the lead in securing enterprise zone status for the region; that they must work in partnership to ensure that the measures included are right for Northern Ireland and that the zone must include a number of vital features to stimulate business growth. Ideas included a fast track planning process, access to a growth fund and intensive support especially for potential exporters and allowances to recruit staff with a focus on international sales.
This blueprint with some updating is still relevant today, and the chamber fully intends to follow this up by supporting the Executive as it seeks to turn the PM’s proposed substantial financial package into concrete measures to help drive our economy forward.
Northern Ireland is a lagging region, exports in 2012 fell by three per cent, unemployment is above national average and businesses with vacancies are still facing serious skills shortages.
Big and bold actions are therefore required from the Executive to help to rejuvenate the economy. A healthy private sector means a higher level of job creation in Northern Ireland. This means a more stable local economy, vibrant high streets, healthier citizens and cohesive communities. The challenge to grow our private sector is more acute than ever and the time for prevarication is over – we must act now.
In England zones were shaped to promote the emergence of new start up firms, with simplified planning rules, over