Welcoming the laying of the enabling legislation for the Coleraine Enterprise Zone in Parliament today Conservative Councillor David Harding said: "This is the last, and vital, piece of the jigsaw which puts in place tax arrangements which will make the Enterprise Zone such an attractive proposition for capital investment.
I set up the original meeting with the late Lord Ballyedmond founder and owner of Norbrook Pharmaceuticals almost exactly five years ago and was accompanied by Coleraine Council officers Roger Wilson, Moira Mann and Richard Baker. As a direct result, contacts were made with the 5nines Data Centre developers who were keen to take advantage of the Kelvin Project direct high speed connection to the West Coast of the USA.
The extensive work done by Council Officials to develop the relationship with 5nines contributed to securing the first Enterprise Zone Chancellor George Osborne announced in in Northern Ireland for Coleraine. Establishing an Enterprise Zone is a complex arrangement and it recently became clear that if the enabling legislation was not passed before Parliament rises on 21st July, it would lead to a long delay, increased costs to Council of at least £400,000 and a possible loss of confidence by the investor who is putting up more than £20m.
I was very pleases therefore to be able to arrange a personal meeting with the then Secretary of State Teresa Villiers to explain exactly what the consequence might be of such a delay.
She clearly grasped the importance of the Enterprise Zone and the Data Centre in terms of the economic prosperity of Causeway Coast and Glens.
Less than two hours after the meeting Westminster Treasury Officials contacted Council Officers with a commitment to have the legislation on the books before the end of this Parliament. Given all that has been happening and knowing how easy it is for legislation to be delayed I must admit to some scepticism but was absolutely delighted to find out that it has happened today.
There is a real prospect that this will mark the start of something much larger than we realise for the area. It could, and should, lead to many hundreds of high value, high tech jobs.”