There are now almost daily signs that Northern Ireland is on the road to economic recovery, Stormont’s Finance minister insisted yesterday.
Speaking as First and Deputy First Minister Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness began their latest trade mission to the US, Simon Hamilton said increasing business activity, falling unemployment, rising house sales and even a surge in new car registrations all indicated the worst of the recession was over.
“I think there are now almost daily signs, Mr Deputy Speaker, that our economy is moving in the right direction. We are well on the road to economic recovery after five or six very difficult years in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Hamilon was addressing the Assembly as his party leader and Mr McGuinness, accompanied by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, set out to drum up more business for the province on a week-long trip.
The Ministers’ visit to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington will involve meetings with existing and potential investors and political leaders to boost commerce and tourism links.
“Engaging with the United States is a vital element of the economic and political development of Northern Ireland,” said Mr Robinson.
“The United States is the number one source of foreign direct investment into Northern Ireland with165 US owned businesses and over 18,000 employees.
“The United States is also significant to our export market, which in 2012/13 exported £534 million to the United States.
“I look forward to a very informative and productive visit and I will be availing of every opportunity to attract further investment and increase tourism to Northern Ireland.”
Mr McGuinness refelcted on the “strong bond” between the USA and the province.
“Over the last five years, US owned companies generated over 4,300 jobs, resulting in £137m of salaries and investment in research and development of £100m.
“Foreign direct investment (FDI) brings many benefits creating new jobs and helping to boost economic growth.
“ It also generates additional opportunities within the local supply chain and leads to the expansion and growth of many home-grown businesses.
“International relationships are developed through face to face meetings and this week offers another opportunity to strengthen relations with the US and pursue opportunities to grow our economy.”
Current US investors include, Allstate, Caterpillar, Chicago Mercantile, Citi, Seagate, Terex and B/E Aerospace, New York Stock Exchange and Stream.