East Londonderry MP Claire Sugden urged the Causeway Coast and Glens Council and the Department of the Economy to step up efforts to attract businesses to the Atlantic Link Enterprise Campus (ALEC) in Coleraine.
Located between Portstewart and Coleraine, it is the only designated corporate area in Northern Ireland. It has only ever had one tenant – 5NINES – an operator neutral global data company, although it was launched in 2017 and has 12 acres of land available.
It was envisioned that the status of enterprise zone, alongside existing advantages in the region, such as the supply of technical talent from the university, would allow significant economic development in the region and take advantage of the untapped potential of a such proximity to the Kelvin project landing station. – where a 22 mile spur to the GTT Atlantic transatlantic cable system comes ashore, providing very low latency routes to both North America and the mainland UK.
Ms Sugden, who sits on Stormont’s economy committee, said: “It is the job of the Department of the Economy to ensure that the region is developed by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council by attracting businesses to capital intensive.
“The board has a responsibility to promote and market the facility, bringing in these businesses and stimulating the local economy. It has cost the taxpayers here £ 2.7million and a return on that investment is essential.
“Invest NI has participated in promotional events in Dublin and London where the benefits and availability of the area were presented to potential investors. It is clear that everyone involved must redouble their efforts to ensure that this asset is not wasted.
“There is now a real opportunity to promote to businesses the benefits of living and working outside Belfast – and in particular on the beautiful North Coast. The pandemic has shown that remote working methods can also mean that being based outside major cities doesn’t hurt business and can even boost it. “
Ms. Sugden recently raised the issue of the corporate zone with Economy Minister Gordon Lyons through a question to the Assembly.
Minister Lyons said he recently met with a Council official to discuss ways his ministry could “support the actions he has planned to attract new tenants.”
Ms Sugden continued: “These discussions must continue and the Council plans to which the Minister refers must be proactive and put in place now.
“It can’t stand almost empty anymore – it’s a waste of an installation right now and a waste of an opportunity. The £ 2.7million investment must translate into the economic benefits it was created to deliver to the region.