Coleraine Enterprise Zone offers ‘glimmer of hope’

Coleraine town centre
Coleraine town centre

Northern Ireland’s first Enterprise Zone has received a mixed response from local business people, with one saying it is “a drop in the ocean after the announcement last week”.

News of the Enterprise Zone was announced by Chancellor George Osborne during Wednesday’s Budget.

UUP councillor and Portrush businessman Norman Hillis said it “does not balance out the loss of 300 jobs at the DVLA in Coleraine”.

“I don’t think anything can make up for that, but it is a small glimmer of hope,” he said. “Whilst I am delighted about the Enterprise Zone it probably has long-term benefits for us, but will not sort out the major loss of 300 jobs.

“It is a first for the area, but realistically if I was one of the 300 people who had lost their job I would ask what difference it would make to me.”

However, Jayne Taggart, chief executive of the Causeway Enterprise Agency, said the Enterprise Zone was “brilliant news on the back of what happened last week in Coleraine”. She said the that siting the Enterprise Zone near the University of Ulster “enhances Coleraine’s offering and pitch to encourage inward investment and local start-ups”.

“The whole strategy is around attracting the digital sector,” she said.

Ms Taggart said after last week’s “devastating blow to the town, this is something positive”.

“I am not saying this balances it out,” she added. “We are all fighting hard to say Coleraine is a very good place to do business.

“And once you get one or two committing to the Enterprise Zone, that will have a draw factor.”