Creating Local Businesses and Local Jobs

Life is getting quicker as the economy grows at a speed that breeds unprecedented challenges and opportunities for business. But how can local companies compete?

Facing difficult times

The economy faces difficulties that include uncertainty about Brexit, the provision of good quality jobs, the reduction of unemployment, and building an equal and inclusive society. For businesses, it is important to reduce costs, develop exports and be able to access finance. For the local economy, major changes have taken place as a result of local council boundaries agreed by the Northern Ireland assembly. During the change responsibility for local economic development transferred to local councils. The shift re-focussed Invest NI on attracting inward investment from overseas. More recently with the absence of the Stormont Executive pressure on budgets has intensified. But local people still need local jobs with local businesses in local areas.

Within the private sector, businesses need skilled workers, high-quality workspace and high-speed broadband. In this context, there has been tremendous success in attracting jobs to Belfast, which proves the model works and should be adopted to bring jobs to the region. Within the public sector, the on-going reform of the workforce is causing upheaval as technology triggers a reorganisation of how and where people work.

Finding local jobs

The Fermanagh and Omagh Council area has a population of 115,500, an increase of 7,600 from 2002, which is projected to keep rising in the next decade. There are 72,500 working age people living in the region, with a 67% employment rate. The figure is comparable to the NI average and facilitated by commuters who travel out of the area on a daily basis. Thousands commute from the region each day to work elsewhere and thousands more travel through the region to work in other locations. As a result, there is a large pool of people with good skills leaving the area on a daily basis to commute to Belfast and other areas.

The local employment base is focussed on manufacturing, wholesale, retail and the health sector, with the hospital and schools representing the biggest employers. The region is under-represented in other professional occupations, particularly when it comes to high-value jobs. As a result of the number of people commuting and a dearth of well-paid jobs wages are lower than the norm. This combination of circumstances indicates the region’s commuters work in higher paid jobs in other areas. The gap in wage levels and subsequent lower productivity results in significant amounts of economic leakage. Therefore the practicality of bringing private and public sector jobs to the region will have a positive effect on the quality of local jobs.   

Solutions include the need to train those commuting from the region each day as a pool of skilled workers available to inward investors, develop attractive workspace suitable for private and public sector organisations, and provide satellite hubs of super-fast broadband. Such a combination of actions would make the region attractive as a centre of investment and jobs.

So, the world is changing at incredible speed and so too must local areas if they are to attract the investment and jobs local people need.