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Why don’t we want money for business?

By Gemma Burns

Just over £7,000 has been offered to West Belfast business start-ups by Invest NI over the past year, leaving it way behind the rest of the north in the race to create new jobs.
Shock new figures released by Invest NI show that in the financial year 2013 to 2014, just £7,780 in financial assistance was offered to local business start-ups. In stark contrast, over £1m was offered in South Belfast, £318k in North Belfast and £108k in the East.
With the West of the city trailing massively behind the rest of the city – and the whole of the north – an Invest NI spokeswoman said it was down to a lack of demand in the area for new financial assistance.
MP for the area Paul Maskey says local entrepreneurs need to make more use of the available funding.
“These figures speak for themselves,” he said. “There are many people who want to start up their own business. There are entrepreneurs in West Belfast and they can seek this assistance from Invest NI and they should do so. The money is there to be made use of.”
Mr Maskey said while Invest NI has traditionally had a poor record of investing in West Belfast, he believes they are working to change that.
“Historically Invest NI has negated some of its responsibilities in West Belfast. They have been working to address this, including the recent investment in Delta Print and the proposed Innovation Centre.

“I am going to ask some of Sinn Féin’s researchers in the Assembly to look into this and try to pin down exactly why these figures are so low.”
Moira Loughran, Invest NI Eastern Regional Manager, said: “Invest Northern Ireland provides a range of support to start-ups through its Regional Start Initiative, its Access to Finance suite of funds and through financial support to help with export, marketing or R&D.
“The Regional Start Initiative and Access to Finance funds are operated by third parties on Invest NI’s behalf and unfortunately we are unable to break down support specifically to West Belfast.
“However, the Regional Start Initiative has supported nearly 1,900 people in the Belfast area to develop a business plan for a new business. The NISPO and the Small Business Loan Funds have provided much needed finance to 137 start-ups of nearly £7m.
“In addition to this Invest NI has offered nearly £180k of support to start-up businesses in West Belfast over the last three years. “
She said Invest NI is working to target local entrepreneurs.
“Support is demand-led and can only be considered where a company has brought forward a viable business plan,” she added.

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