Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said that recent bad news about the McGrath Group and British home Stores should not be seen as the only indicator of the city’s prospects.
Mr Donaldson said there is a need to offer more specialist shops in the city centre, as well as recognising the growth and importance of Lisburn’s industrial sector.
“The recent announcement that local company McGraths is closing is a setback to our efforts to build a strong industrial base in Lisburn and we will redouble our efforts to ensure that all local people employed at the company are able to find new employment,” said Mr Donaldson.
“We will do the same with BHS in the event that local people lose their jobs as a result of the retailer going into administration. Hopefully that will not be necessary and a buyer can be found to take over at BHS.
“Nevertheless, these two developments are a reminder that we still have some way to go in our economic recovery but the signs are positive.
“Unemployment continues to fall as we attract new investment into the area and see successful companies expand their workforce.
“Our industrial base is growing and Lisburn now has the lowest unemployment in Northern Ireland. However, this is no reason to be complacent. In the past month I have met a number of companies who are either planning to move to Lisburn or have expressed an interest in locating in the city. I am also aware that some local companies have further plans for expansion.
“One of the key elements in our strategy is to rebalance the economic activity in the city. In the past we had a heavy reliance on retail but that sector is changing and contracting, not least because of the popularity of online shopping.
“We need to become more specialised in our retail offer and make Lisburn a more attractive shopping destination. Following the completion of the public realm scheme in Market Square and Bow Street and the new ownership of Lisburn Square, we have seen a growth in that speciality retail.
“Already this is making a visible difference in reducing the number of vacant shopfronts and increasing the number of shoppers.
“When I first became MP, Lisburn had experienced the long, slow decline of its industrial base with traditional industries like linen and heavy engineering fast fading away. Then, Knockmore Hill was just a greenfield site and the former De Lorean plant at Derriaghy was lying empty. Today, both these sites are a hive of industrial activity. Our next target is the development of the land at Blaris and on the Maze site.
“The strategy that we have developed to regenerate our local economy is beginning to achieve real results. I believe the Council and Chamber of Commerce working in partnership with Invest NI and the Executive can deliver growth that will help to transform Lisburn into one of the most modern, dynamic cities on these islands.”