£163m of new growth deal funding used as an incentive to recall Stormont, and Wrightbus, Bombardier Belfast and Harland and Wolff are all bought

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Unemployment in NI decreased by 2,000 to 26,000 between June and August, the fall of 0.2% left the overall rate at a record low of 2.9%.

The South West of England continued to record the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The highest rate was 5.8% which was recorded in the North East of England.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 71.5% in NI. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

NI average property prices increased by 0.8% to £168,221 in Q2, which took annual growth to 3.5%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked NI eleventh out of the 12 UK ‘regions’ in terms of improved happiness since the last survey. Overall though, the Northern Irish were still the happiest in the UK with Londoners still the most miserable.

Development

In July, Boris Johnson Announced that £300m growth deals funding will be shared across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  NI Secretary Julian Smith has now said Northern Ireland is to benefit from £163m of this investment.

This money will only be available though if Stormont is operational.

Growth deals (also known as city deals in urban areas) are national, devolved and local government funding packages aimed at boosting regional economies, often by encouraging private investment in specific projects.

Belfast City Deal, which proposes to invest £350m into Belfast and six surrounding council areas, has already been agreed. In May, c £100m has been committed to boost the economy in the Derry and Strabane District Council area.

The new £163m will cover mid south west Northern Ireland and Causeway Coast & Glen. Council areas that will benefit include: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council; Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council.

Canada’s Bombardier has agreed to sell part of its business to, Kansas based, Spirit AeroSystems for more than £1bn in cash and debt. The deal includes the Belfast plant and facilities in Morocco and Dallas.

Spirit, is a major supplier to Airbus and Boeing. The wings for the Airbus A220 are made at the Belfast plant and it also supplies other Airbus parts.

The Belfast factory will continue to supply Bombardier’s business jet division. Bombardier employs about 3,600 people in Northern Ireland.

A vote of confidence in Londonderry from Manchester-based David Samuel Properties which has paid a reported £30m for The Crescent Link Retail Park.

This is the second biggest property deal in Northern Ireland this year after Citigroup bought its main Belfast premises from Titanic Quarter for £34m.

Jobs

A deal in principle has been reached for the sale of Wrightbus.

Purchaser, Jo Bamford, son of JCB owner Lord Bamford, said agreement had been reached for the acquisition of the Wrightbus factory after an issue over adjacent farmland was resolved.

It now appears that the farmland will be gifted to the local council which could use it as an innovation project as part of the Belfast city deal in conjunction with Queens’ University.

Known for building the ‘Boris Bus,’ c1,200 Wrightbus workers were made redundant after the company entered administration. It is not known whether Invest NI has committed any public money to the latest deal.

The Agency disclosed it loaned the Wrightbus group £2.5m in June 2019 to keep the business afloat. The development agency will need to ensure that these funds are not classified as operating aid under state aid rules.

Also on the buses, Mallaghan Engineering in Dungannon.is creating 60 jobs after securing a multi-million-pound contract to build a fleet of airport buses.

Ryanair has initially ordered a 32-strong fleet of the Mallaghan 50W airport bus, to be delivered in the next 12 months.

Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, best known for building the Titanic, has been bought for £6m by the London-based energy firm, InfraStrata.

The yard employed 120 before it went into administration in August and InfraStrata has said it will retain the 79 workers who are still employed there. The new owners will initially focus on metal fabrication for its energy projects one of which is a potential gas storage project at Islandmagee in County Antrim.

The yard is synonymous with the interventionist policies of the 1970s and is estimated to have soaked up over £1bn of taxpayers’ money.

American software firm, ESO, which is based in Texas, is to create 120 jobs highly paid in Belfast.

The company sells software tools and products to emergency services and hospitals in north America and is planning to establish an engineering centre in Belfast.

The new posts will be in software, engineering, HR, and operations. Invest NI has offered ESO £780,000 towards the inward investment win.

Finally, consultancy firm EY is creating 94 new jobs at its Belfast office to add to the 520 already employed in the city. The firm is recruiting technology specialists, robotics, AI engineers and data scientists as well more traditional audit and tax roles.

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