Members of Ballymena Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry have been updated on plans to create a multimillion pound next generation science park on the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in the town.
Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy discussed the project which is designed to arm local people with the skills to compete on a global stage as digital innovators and entrepreneurs.
Under up to £1bn of co-investment outlined through the Belfast Region City Deal proposals, around £26m of investment is earmarked for the project in Ballymena.
Belfast Region City Deal sets out a plan to grow the economy, boost jobs and tourism, increasing skills, encouraging investment and developing infrastructure.
The substantial economic opportunity includes plans for around £80m of investment in Mid and East Antrim, including St Patrick’s, The Gobbins and Carrickfergus Castle, walls and surrounding environment.
Ms Donaghy said: “I thank the Ballymena Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the invitation to update their members on our Belfast Region City Deal plans, which lay out a hugely exciting future for the town.
“As a council, we are fully committed to supporting business growth and development, and promoting an environment that encourages and facilitates investment in our borough.
“The opportunities presented by City Deal will provide much-needed substantial investment in a borough still reeling from the loss of so many highly paid manufacturing jobs as a result of the closures of Michelin and JTI.
“Together with the backing of our elected representatives – who have demonstrated unwavering support to our focus on economic growth – we have introduced and delivered a number of initiatives which have the potential to transform the economy in this borough.
“The Belfast Region City Deal is vital to our ambitious vision and blueprint for a vibrant economy in Mid and East Antrim, and Northern Ireland.”
The proposed Integrated Industrial Inspiration and Innovation Campus, i4C, in Ballymena will encompass an inspiration programme to inspire and harness the talents of young people through a controlled series of high quality work experiences creating unique personal profiles for each person, matching them to an online mentor and connecting them to future matched enrichment activities.
The activities will focus on identifying the entrepreneurs of the future and linking them to workshops with existing entrepreneurs, linking the coders of the future to coding clubs, and providing a pathway for future apprenticeships.
Chancellor Philip Hammond MP previously confirmed a £350m Treasury commitment to bolster the proposed £1bn City Deal and the partners are now working closely together to move the projects to the next stage.
Seven Mid and East Antrim councillors sit on Mid and East Antrim’s Belfast Region City Deal committee. They are Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, Alderman Robin Cherry MBE, Councillor Billy Ashe MBE, Councillor Robin Stewart, Alderman Gregg McKeen, Councillor Timothy Gaston and Councillor Robert Logan.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, alongside the other local authority partners, will continue to work in close collaboration with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Northern Ireland Office, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Treasury as well as our Universities and Further Education Colleges to move forward with the City Deal plans.