Ards and North Down in pursuit of prosperity

Ards and North Down is a unique location; a place of growth and opportunity, that offers a highly compelling proposition for those choosing to live, work, visit and, critically, do business here.

Ards and North Down Borough Council is working to ensure this message is heard on a local, national and international stage and last year launched its integrated tourism, regeneration and economic development strategy in support of this goal. ‘Blue:Green, Creatively Connected’ presents a vision for the pursuit of prosperity across the borough over the next 10 years.

It sets out the steps needed to ensure continued growth in the economy, to warmly welcome visitors and to improve places, both urban and rural. As part of the plan the borough has ambitious targets to achieve in terms of job creation (7,500); a growth in productivity (raise GVA to the Northern Ireland average) and an increase in visitor expenditure of 78 per cent (to £82 million) by 2020. Achieving these targets will fulfill multiple outcomes for the borough, complementing existing initiatives and introducing new ideas.

Speaking about the strategy and the Council’s prosperity plans, Chief Executive Stephen Reid says: “We want to celebrate all that is great about Ards and North Down and to work with all those who contribute to the growth of our economy, the welcoming of visitors and the improvement of our places, both urban and rural.”

He continues: “It is ambitious but this is to be welcomed as a reflection of the high degree of confidence placed in the borough by the Council and its many partner organisations, businesses and communities. Our ambition to drive the economy in Ards and North Down is clear.”

Defining our USPs

Developing the strategy has certainly allowed the Council to identify the unique selling points of Ards and North Down that will help to attract individuals, businesses and investors to the area. The list is long but includes: being the number one location in Northern Ireland for full fibre broadband connectivity (7th in the UK); its growing reputation for excellence in the fields of advanced engineering, creative digital, agri-food and business services; and its strong digital and geographical connections that offer easy worldwide networking.

Priorities and actions

Six priority themes were identified from the strategy: promote to invest; connect places and people; equip with skills and spaces; excel in quality and value; nurture assets and maximise progress and potential.

Actions that have already been delivered include the creation of an Economic Development Forum and the development of a Food Destination Development Plan. The first is a business-led group seeking to promote better collaboration between the private and public sectors to boost skill development and promote job opportunities throughout the area. The second seeks to position Ards and North Down as a premier food tourism destination on the island of Ireland.

Belfast Region City Deal

These local ambitions have received a significant boost from the Council’s involvement in the ‘game changing’ Belfast Region City Deal. Ards and North Down is one of six councils that has worked with education and business partners to secure a package of investment from the UK government, local government, universities and the private sector totaling around £1 billion. It will be used to support inclusive economic growth, deliver more and better jobs and have a positive impact on our most deprived communities.   

Ards and North Down will benefit by:

• Bangor Waterfront Regeneration – potential of £40 million to support this major £63 million regeneration project stretching over two miles from Pickie to Ballyholme, including new greenways and coastal paths, the re-imagining of Ballyholme Beach and the development of a unique new national visitor attraction.

• Regional Park at Whitespots – £5 million for phase 1 enabling works to help realise our vision for a regional park bounded by 48km of greenway – at the heart of which will be a new multi-use recreational facility with major visitor attractions.

• Inclusive growth in employment opportunities through the regional Employability and Skills programme.

• Share of £152 million of capital towards a regional digital programme.

Reid comments: “A Region City Deal is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we are totally committed to ensuring Ards and North Down secures maximum benefits. These exciting proposals will give all ages more opportunities and the potential for better jobs, as well as attracting more tourists and visitors to drive our economy.”

Economic Development in AND

Taking its cue from the strategy, the Council’s Economic Development Service is working with businesses at all stages of development to help them achieve sustainability and long-term growth. The programme of activity on offer is developed in response to the needs of local businesses and includes one to one interactions and mentoring programmes, assistance with market research, advice on funding and signposting to key partners, events and tailored workshops. In 2018, more than 140 new businesses started up in the borough; 17 new social enterprises were created and more than 550 of our local business people across key sectors were supported to grow their business through new markets and interventions. These opportunities are available to all local businesses in Ards and North Down.   

Is there a place for you on our business pipeline?

For free, confidential advice at any stage of business development contact our Economic Development Team on
028 9147 3788.

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