Posted on Thursday 24 March 2016 by Ulster Business

Manufacturer primed for government led boost

Neil McCullough, pictured left, of Oxford Economics and Richard Gray, right, of Carson McDowell Solicitors join Manufacturing NI Chairman Con O’Neill to launch the Oxford Economics report into the manufacturing sector

The next Executive has the chance to revitalise Northern Ireland manufacturing by focusing on making energy prices and rates more competitive and setting out a clear roadmap for the sector.

That is the conclusion of a new report commissioned by industry body Manufacturing Northern Ireland (MNI) which revealed that manufacturing accounts for one in four jobs here, two thirds of all exports and is nearly 40% more productive per capita than other industries.

It said that the sector accounts for just 14% of gross domestic product here – far behind the Republic where the manufacturing represents 23% of the economy - but that could be raised to 20% with the help of the Executive, according to MNI chief executive Stephen Kelly.

“Despite recent high profile problems, this report highlights the historic opportunity which the next Executive has to help create renewed economic prosperity,” he said. “We believe that it’s possible and necessary for the Executive to work with the manufacturing sector to increase its contribution to 20% of GDP, narrowing the gap between north and south of the border.

“The next Executive can create the conditions which will see this target met and transform communities across Northern Ireland. It can lead a re-industrialisation of our economy”.

The report said that with government help the sector can benefit from growth in the global economy and can expand faster than the rest of the UK.

“Strong GDP growth in Northern Ireland’s largest export market, the Republic of Ireland, as well as other significant markets in the US, Asia, the Middle East and Africa will provide strong demand for export goods over the forecast period,” the report said.

Neil McCullough from Oxford Economics, which was behind the report, said manufacturing remains vibrant.

“We’ve all heard of the high profile demise of some of our traditional manufacturers in recent months, but what this analysis has uncovered is that a strong, vibrant and important manufacturing sector remains.  It directly provides a significant volume of highly productive jobs meaning the sector is the second largest direct contributor to GDP.”

Richard Gray, Partner and Joint Head of Carson McDowell’s corporate team which sponsored the report said:

“This is a significant piece of research by Manufacturing NI which will hopefully be used to inform policy on manufacturing at the highest level of government and which will enable the industry to secure the support needed to succeed in the future.

“Northern Ireland has a proud manufacturing tradition and you only need to read the headline numbers from this in-depth report to be reminded just how important the manufacturing sector is to our economy. It directly contributes more than 85,000 jobs – some 10 per cent of our employment – and 14 per cent of total economic output in the region.

Stephen Kelly called on the next Executive to act.

“It’s time to make sure that the next government of Northern Ireland builds on the strengths of our manufacturing sector,” he said. “Northern Ireland was at the heart of the 19th century industrial revolution. 

“We are poised and willing to go again.  Let us collectively commit to reaching the EU’s 20% target, reindustrialise Northern Ireland and have an internationally envied and quickly growing economy based on well paid, highly skilled and regionally dispersed jobs.”

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