There needs to be a real debate on developing the North West Regional Economy.
I met with Martin McGuinness and representatives from Derry firm Maydown Precision Engineering to discuss the firm’s expansion at Stormont recently.
Following that engagement, I will be seeking an early meeting with Martin Mc Guinness and the ministerial subgroup set up to deliver a more balanced regional economy. I will also be speaking directly with InvestNI to see what additional actions can be employed to create jobs.
Any regional focus has to include Derry, Tyrone and Donegal. These three counties have some of the highest rates of welfare dependency in Ireland and it is clear that the current government policy of attracting investment and jobs needs to change.
With a convergence of Corporation tax expected over the next few years I will be exploring ways in which this region can work collaboratively to promote a single investment message and create much needed employment.
A cross border Regional approach to a Skills and Education agenda which clearly ties in to the needs of our employers and investment strategy is required.
Clearly cross border cooperation works as is evidenced in the work already being done in terms of health delivery and tourism promotion. But more needs to be done in the area of a Cross Border Investment and Enterprise Strategy.
InvestNI and Enterprise Ireland/ IDA need to develop closer marketing programmes to promote the North West region as an investment location.
It is important to demonstrate strong leadership within the region to ensure that we tackle these issues therefore I will be liaising closely with our Sinn Fein TDs and Councillors in Donegal and our MLAs, Councillors and MP in Tyrone.
“I will also explore with Martina Anderson MEP how to access the range of funding programmes, particularly for small and medium business that is available from Europe.
“My approach will be to listen and to challenge others to deliver the policies for this region which will create employment.
I want to build on the good work done over the last number of years but will be seeking real concrete commitments to tackle the disparities which clearly exist
It’s very easy to be critical of past performance but I believe the people of this region deserve better from their elected politicians. What Derry and the wider North West needs has been very clearly articulated by many over the last few years and it is now time for the strong leadership required to deliver these projects”