Roy Beggs MLA made the following speech on the 3rd March in the Northern Ireland Assembly in relation to industry development and investment in East Antrim:
“It is important that we talk about the opportunities for employers to come to East Antrim and for visitors to come and enjoy an experience that is not available in many other parts of the Province or, indeed, the world. I certainly view the east Antrim coastline as something very special, and any visitors who have travelled it with me have also found it very special. We have limited natural resources. Apart from our natural environment, our main resource is our people. I noticed in recent claimant counts that the figures for 2014 show that unemployment in Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey is below the Northern Ireland average, and that has to be welcomed. We have an industrious people. It is surprising, when you go into some of the details, that, while we have a low unemployment rate, we have one of the lowest levels of employee jobs in any constituency in Northern Ireland. Why is that? It is because we have industrious people who get on their bike, get into their car, on the bus, on the train and go to work where the jobs are. For any employer out there who is listening, those people would be good, local, committed employees should that employer choose to locate somewhere more convenient in East Antrim. We have to recognise that, sometimes, you have to travel to the jobs, but we hope in future that more jobs will be provided locally. I commend our people who travel. There are other interesting statistics. We have a very healthy number of apprenticeships operating between level 2 and level 3, some 357 I noted from a recent Assembly answer. I have to praise Larne Skills Development, which is drawing in young people from the entire East Antrim coastal area. I am aware that it provides a high success rate in providing long-term placement and, ultimately, employment. That must be commended as well. That is despite the fact that there is a very weak presence of further education opportunities locally in Larne.
It would be nice if more employment could be provided locally, but we have to assess whether there is demand. There is no point in building empty buildings; there must be the demand. Certainly, I see great opportunities in the East Antrim area in the future. As others mentioned, with the A8 dual carriageway nearing completion, it will be easier for those who wish to come to Northern Ireland and East Antrim to visit. Equally, it will be easier and more attractive for employers to locate in East Antrim, whether it be in Larne or, indeed, Carrickfergus, with the A2 also nearing completion later this year. That will open up business areas that were previously deemed too difficult to access. Wonderful opportunities will arise from that, and there is a high likelihood that more jobs will arise in East Antrim as a result of both those developments. Of course, on top of that infrastructure, we are quite close to both airports: the international airport and the city airport. As others have said, we have a natural gas supply available in our main areas. Generally, we have a good broadband infrastructure, although it has to be acknowledged that there are still gaps in urban areas and in some rural areas. I certainly wish, as I indicated earlier, that all our business parks would have access to superfast broadband in order to allow our companies to develop. We must praise the work that goes on in our local enterprise centres. LEDCOM has a wonderful record of encouraging new employment and people to take up self-employment.
I should also mention Carrick Enterprise. LEDCOM helps in a wide range of other activities throughout the community to make Larne a better place.”