Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has claimed that Northern Ireland can again be one of the worldâs economic powerhouses, backing up his claims with figures from the manufacturing industries.
The number of manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland is currently the highest since 2008, at 80,000, with manufacturing sales up 1.7% to £18.1bn. Manufacturing exports are up £350m to £6.3bn, and manufacturing output as a whole is up 2.4%, which is outperforming the UK average.
This announcement comes after heartache last week, which saw manufacturing heavyweight Caterpillar announce that it is seeking 250 redundancies as well as a potential closure of its plant in Monkstown. There have also been job losses at Bombardier, JTI, and Michelin.
However, Mr Hamilton says that although he is aware of this situation, he is adamant that the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland is strong, and that despite the calls for Stormont to publish a stand-alone manufacturing strategy, and the Ulster Unionist Partyâs vows to raise the matter when the Assembly returns later this month, this would not make any difference.
“The Executive does have an Economic Strategy which has policies, initiatives and targets on innovation, growth, exports and skills that all assist manufacturing,” he said. “If I honestly thought that a document with the title of ‘a manufacturing strategy’ would have any impact on the announcements by firms like Caterpillar, JTI or Michelin, I would have launched it weeks ago.”
“Everywhere I go I see our entrepreneurial spirit in action across all sectors of our economy,” he added. “It is my job to work with business to put in place the skills, tax system and infrastructure to make us the globally competitive economy we know we can be.”