Foster: Strabane business park 'an attractive investment'
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said she was confident Strabane's business park will prove "an attractive investment opportunity", on 3 June 2013.
Mrs Foster was speaking in the adjournment debate, brought by Sinn Fein's Michaela Boyle, on job creation in the Strabane district.
She said the 16-acre site, acquired by Invest NI, was subject to "a number of expressions of formal interest" but "it can take time to convert discussions into investment".
Mrs Foster said the support her department offered extended beyond job creation and would involve improving the competitiveness of local business, whether helping with research and development or providing new skills to the workforce.
Michaela Boyle said that despite assurances from Invest NI, Strabane had "yet to see the benefit" of the business park as "it has lain empty".
She said that chief executive Alastair Hamilton had assured her his organisation was "pro-actively marketing the park, locally and internationally" and had received interest from seven businesses.
Ms Boyle said that Strabane had a reputation as an "unemployment blackspot", forcing people to look elsewhere for work.
She said that 2,000 people had emigrated from Strabane since 2007.
The SDLP's Joe Byrne said that despite interest in the business park "until the people of Strabane see jobs in this forty-acre park, they will not feel they have been listened to".
He said the South West College had recently been awarded a grade one assessment and was rated as one of the top further education colleges in the UK.
Despite a highly-trained local workforce, he said youth unemployment was a major problem and called on the minister to "invest in the young people of Strabane".
The UUP's Tom Elliott said the high unemployment rate made Strabane "a hard place to live and find work".
He said there were opportunities for central government to consider the decentralisation of jobs, perhaps bringing an agency to Strabane.
Mr Elliott said this could, "give confidence to those businesses that may show an interest in going to Strabane".