New Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has been welcomed to his new post by the business community as he succeeded Arlene Foster in a DUP shake-up.
The new man in the postsaid he hoped to build on the “excellent work” carried out by Mrs Foster who succeeds new Health Minister Simon Hamilton in the Finance brief.
Following his appointment Mr Bell acknowledged the “extremely busy and diverse portfolio” he inherits .
“This is a time of great potential for Northern Ireland and it is important that this potential continues to be given every opportunity to be fulfilled to the maximum.
“Great progress has already been made in terms of job creation and attracting foreign direct investment, and I expect Invest Northern Ireland’s end year figures will be further proof of that when they are published next week.
Pointing to one sector of great significance, he said the tourism product in the province had never been in a stronger position.
“We have become known on the world stage as the home of major events and, with the unmissable Irish Open due to take place in two weeks’ time, we will once again be in the international media spotlight for all the right reasons.”
There was a renewed confidence from the industry too, as was demonstrated that morning with the news that the Hastings Group has bought Windsor House with the intention of establishing a new city centre hotel.
Speaking about the wide range of issues facing his department, he said it played a crucial role in formulating and delivering economic development policy in terms of Enterprise, Social Economy, Innovation, Energy and Telecoms.
“In addition, the department has responsibility for ensuring a modern regulatory framework to support business and protect consumers.
“I look forward to working with all of the Department’s partners and stakeholders as we continue to grow a dynamic and innovative economy which will benefit all of the people of Northern Ireland.”
Commenting on behalf of the Federation of Small Businesses, NI policy chair, Wilfred Mitchell said the reshuffle brought change across a number of key departments.
“ Arlene Foster has been a powerful advocate for Northern Ireland business and has been fully committed to the driving the economy forward.
“She has won widespread acclaim for her pro-business attitude and her determination to grow the economy, so her move to the Department of Finance and Personnel, just as a review of non domestic rates gets underway, gives a great opportunity for her to continue putting the private sector economy to the fore.
“Jonathan Bell has always been keen to engage with the FSB in his previous role as Junior Minister, so we wish him well in the key role he now takes up, as the department starts preparations to merge with the Department of Employment and Learning to create a powerhouse Department of the Economy next year.
“He vacates the important but often unseen post of Junior Minister, to which Michelle McIlveen will bring a wide range of qualities.”
Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber offered congratulations to the Ministers in their new roles.
“DFP Minister Foster is well briefed on the business sectors priorities for the NI budget in particular the need to focus on corporation tax as well as investment in skills and infrastructure,” she said.
“Minister Foster was very strong in DETI and we encourage Minister Bell to continue to ensure that we have a pro- business, pro enterprise agenda.
“A focus on growing export is essential.
“Minister Hamilton with his DFP experience should bring a new focus to health and his understanding of balancing challenging budgets should lead to improved efficiencies in health.”