Local business leaders have been told their input is vital to a new Manufacturing Task Force’s plans to create jobs in the Borough.
The task force has been set up by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to mitigate the impact of the closures of leading local employers JTI Gallaher and Michelin, and provide a robust platform for inward investment, increased employment opportunities and economic development.
The Task Force, chaired by manufacturing expert Rose Mary Stalker, who has 25 years’ experience working with multinational firms, will work to protect the borough’s economy, build on its existing strengths, identify opportunities for growth, improve Mid and East Antrim’s competitiveness and maintain its reputation as the engine room of the Northern Ireland economy.
She is currently engaging with companies throughout Mid and East Antrim and plans further meetings in the coming weeks to draw on the expertise and experience of local firms.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said the Task Force’s vision would be shaped by those its work will affect most, and he encouraged business leaders, manufacturers, investors and other key stakeholders to engage with the group and contribute to the conversation on the needs and opportunities within the Borough.
Cllr. Reid said: “The Manufacturing Task Force was created to attract inward investment to our borough, support sustainable employment, expand existing businesses, and promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
“We were delighted to have secured the services of Rose Mary as Chair, and the vital work she will oversee is already underway.
“The Task Force will approach its work with a very open mind. Among the provisional discussions are the potential for an Advanced Manufacturing Centre in the Borough, as well as exploring the opportunity for Mid and East Antrim becoming Northern Ireland’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult centre.
“It is crucial that our citizens play a key role in that work. The Task Force’s plan of action will be borne out of conversations and consultation with those set to be most affected by the plans and decisions of the body, so it is imperative their voices are heard.
“I strongly encourage our citizens and stakeholders to engage in what is an ambitious, exciting and innovative initiative, which will impact on the lives of many within our Borough.”
Rose Mary Stalker said: “I have been extremely encouraged by the response to the Manufacturing Task Force and the proactive approach being taken to deliver economic growth in Mid and East Antrim.
“The recent launch of council’s Economic Development Strategy, Amplify, was a bold statement of intent.
“I am currently engaging with our manufacturing leaders throughout Mid and East Antrim and beyond to identify what need is there and exploring opportunities that could be maximised for future development. It is all about sharing ideas and experiences from across the business community to identify need and ultimately work to deliver substantial growth.
“We need inputs from our advanced manufacturers, those involved in agri-food, digital, bio medical, energy, construction, advanced engineering and a wide range of other sectors so we are fully equipped to begin pinpointing specific issues and opportunities.
“This Borough has an excellent skills base and infrastructure. It can be at the forefront of innovation, with a community brimming with ambition, talent and entrepreneurship.
“I am hugely excited by the opportunity to drive growth and investment in Mid and East Antrim and Northern Ireland as a whole, and look forward to embracing the challenges ahead, alongside Council, our local business leaders, industry experts and innovators, and key stakeholders.”
Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said: “Our Council has consistently demonstrated its full support for business growth and development, and promoting an environment that encourages and facilitates investment in our Borough.
“Mid and East Antrim has a strong reputation as a manufacturing heartland and rather than be daunted by the challenges we face, we have chosen to embrace change and strive to ensure we are ideally positioned to adapt to and thrive in an ever-changing economy.
“We have committed to creating a vibrant business culture and we are proactively seeking to build on our strengths in advanced manufacturing and agri-food, while supporting the growth of new industry sectors, including digital, tourism, financial and business services.”
For more information and to find out how you can get involved in the work of the Manufacturing Task Force, contact Rose Mary at ChairMTF@midandeastantrim.gov.uk or any of the Economic Development Team at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
To find out more about the business programmes offered through Amplify visit www.amplifymidandeastantrim.com