The strategy was prepared by Council working collaboratively with a number of key stakeholders including Invest Northern Ireland, Northern Regional College, Catalyst Inc., local enterprise agencies and various Stormont Departments, to agree a clear road map on how Council will manage the economy of Mid and East Antrim through to 2030.
Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Anne Donaghy, is confident that Amplify provides the strategic direction to position the borough as an ideal place to live, work and invest in by 2030.
“Growing the economy is Council’s number one strategic priority. Our business-centred approach has ensured clear direction from our companies on the co-ordinated business supports they require to improve productivity, the higher value skills necessary to remain competitive, and the importance of additional start up and grow on workspace to support their growth ambitions.”
As a region, Mid and East Antrim has a population of over 138,000 with 4,700 registered businesses, some of which include Northern Ireland’s most successful companies such as Wrightbus, Moy Park and Caterpillar.
Traditionally, Mid and East Antrim is recognised as the manufacturing heartland of Northern Ireland, with significant strengths in advanced manufacturing, accounting for one in five jobs in the region. It is also home to a vibrant agri-food sector with one in five people working for the 1,363 agri-food businesses based in the region.
Despite this expertise, the area has experienced significant challenges in recent years with job losses seen within the manufacturing sector in the region. Amplify seeks to provide innovation, certainty and stability for the benefit of our businesses and communities who have suffered because of these challenges.
The key focus of Amplify is job creation and growth. Council is committed to creating a vibrant business culture, which not only builds on our strengths in advanced manufacturing and agri-food but which supports the growth of emerging sectors in the region such as tourism, financial and business services and digital.
To facilitate and navigate the growth of both existing and emerging sectors, Amplify is built around five critical strategic economic priorities: Enterprise and Entrepreneurship; Innovation; Employment and Skills; Infrastructure and Inclusion and Wellbeing.
Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
Amplify will create a culture of enterprise within Mid and East Antrim. Encouraging enterprise, increasing business birth rates and the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is key to the achievement of this.
As part of Amplify, a series of business mentoring programmes have been launched, which support businesses in the region from start-up; Go for it and Kickstart right through to growth phase; Business Escalator. Each of these programmes offer free mentoring support for all aspects of business planning and growth and will help to create new employment opportunities in Mid and East Antrim.
One of the key initiatives is the Business Escalator Programme. The Business Escalator Programme provides business growth support to existing businesses and social enterprises (trading for more than six months and with less than 50 employees), through a bespoke, free, one-to-one mentoring service.
The suite of supports allows business owners to assess where they are now, and to focus on their future development and growth. Businesses can access free, tailored, business mentoring from specialist business mentors in areas including but not limited to:
• Planning and Development
• Financial Management
Head of Economic Development at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Ursula O’Loughlin believes that the launch of the Business Escalator Programme marks exciting new territory for Council.
“The focus of the programme is to grow existing micro and small enterprises in Mid and East Antrim, through a bespoke and tailored support programme which meets each business’s needs. The programme aims to build capacity and capability to ultimately create jobs.”
The Amplify Business Escalator Programme is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme and Invest Northern Ireland.
As a Council, we will create an effective innovative ecosystem in which support agencies, businesses and communities work together to encourage innovation and economic growth.
The redevelopment of the ECOS Centre in Ballymena into a Science Park style workspace in partnership with our managing agent Catalyst Inc. brings an exciting new opportunity for digital and technology firms to set up their business in Mid and East Antrim. The site comprises of 20,000 sq ft of Grade A business accommodation, including shared and private workspaces with meeting space and business support. 70 per cent of the innovation space is already let and we are well on our way to creating 125 high-value knowledge economy jobs.
Employment and Skills
Amplify aims to improve the skills of young people to better equip them for the world of work so that they are encouraged and inspired to adopt a ‘can – do’ attitude.
Working closely with businesses in the region, along with Northern Regional College, Department for the Economy and Invest NI, we want to encourage a culture of enterprise. A range of skills and training programmes are already available within the Mid and East Antrim area to provide people with the skills support they need to be successful in the workplace.
Mid and East Antrim is a diverse area with a complex mix of urban and rural communities.
The strategic location of Mid and East Antrim means that it benefits from good transport infrastructure. With its close proximity to both Belfast International and Belfast City airports, as well as Belfast port and the port of Larne, it makes it a very easy location for companies to do business.
As part of Amplify, Council will focus on improving the profile of the borough for investment and tourism. Within Council, we have recently set up a new Investment and Place department, which will focus on providing support for businesses to reinvest in the region and secure new inward investment to the area.
Inclusion and Wellbeing
The objective of Amplify is to grow the local economy through helping local businesses and promoting more social enterprise start-ups.
The social economy in Mid and East Antrim has a key role in terms of promoting social cohesion, neighbourhood renewal, helping people into work and improving the environment. We have a number of successful social enterprises in Mid and East Antrim and we will continue to support the good work they do and encourage more to start up.
Overall, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are committed to growing the economy of Mid and East Antrim and Amplify is a step in the right direction.
With the strategic direction provided by Amplify along with the commitment and dedication of Council and our key partners, we are already making steady progress to position the region as a competitive business hub within Northern Ireland and further afield.