In response to a question from Lord Morrow, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Jonathan Bell described how he plans to create jobs in Northern Ireland over the next five years. Mr Bell said “the Executive’s economic strategy sets out an overarching goal to 2030 to improve the economic competitiveness of the economy through a focus on export-led economic growth, and this will remain our priority going forward.” Our strongest exporting sector is the manufacturing sector (despite the recent bad news about Michelin) and has resulted in the creation of 1800 jobs in the year up until March 2015. The Minister added, “as we look to refocus the economic strategy, we will continue to invest in the key drivers of innovation, research and development and skills in order to create the conditions that will allow businesses in all sectors to grow and prosper.”
In light of the news about the closure of the Michelin plant in Ballymena in 2018, Gordon Lyons MLA asked the Minister what support he will be providing to those workers affected. Mr Bell assured his support and revealed that he has already had discussions with Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, the Mayor and the chief executive of the council to see what they can do and what Invest NI support can be offered to the council. The Minister also acknowledged the work of Michelin management to ensure that work is still available until 2018, giving workers plenty of time to make plans and to leave with a healthy paycheck. The Minister outlined his plan for the future by saying “what we have to do now is reduce our corporation tax, set the date on which we will do that and attract the 30,000-plus new jobs that are available to Northern Ireland.”
During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on the impact that the EU referendum will have on the local economy, engagement with the Chinese Government, the aborted talks between Bombardier and Airbus, wind energy and energy legislation.