Every effort must be made to save Patton company

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THE news that Patton construction has been forced to call in administrators is another stark reminder of the economic difficulties we continue to face in Northern Ireland.

There are 320 staff who have real concerns about what the future holds because this local firm is in trouble.

These problems have not been caused by any risky investment practices but because a century-old firm run by the third generation of the Patton family is bearing the brunt of the downturn in our local construction industry.

The impact of this is not just felt by the immediate employees of Patton Group however, but by many subcontractors and suppliers located in north Antrim and Northern Ireland.

We have been once again reminded of the importance in placing the growth of our economy at the top of the political agenda.

Stimulating growth is what businesses need to see in order to survive and prosper.

I have already had discussions with both the Finance Minister and the Enterprise Minister about this issue, and I know that their focus is fully on attempting to steer Northern Ireland forward out of our economic circumstances.

The Executive has brought forward infrastructure projects with new road and hospital projects either already under way or hopefully to begin construction shortly.

Unfortunately it isn’t possible for the Northern Ireland Executive alone to solve the problems faced by local business but I do know that many efforts will be made by all local representatives to assist companies such as Patton.

It is vital that our banks, in particular, are sympathetic to the plight of businesses and that they work positively with them. I hear every day from constituents the enormous cash flow problems they face when dealing with our banks.

Perhaps they should be doing more to address this issue of cash flow and demonstrate as never before that they are here to support our businesses.

Indeed they could take an example directly from the Patton Group themselves who were publicly so understanding and helpful with others such as churches who experienced financial difficulties because of the problems within the Presbyterian Mutual Society.

I know that every effort will be made to ensure that the Patton Group can return to trade profitably and continue to play an important role in the Northern Ireland economy and to provide employment within the Ballymena and wider north Antrim area.