The Minister for Economic Development Laurence Skelly MHK today offered a confident outlook for the Isle of Man's economy. The Minister commented:
'2014 was another good year for the economy with continued growth of around 3% and unemployment falling by nearly a quarter – and the prospects for 2015 are as good if not better.
'I am conscious that not everyone has necessarily been feeling the benefits of this growth. Firstly, many workers have not seen their pay rise in real terms in recent years – this is common across most of the developed world.
'Secondly, I am conscious that some news relating to Government changes necessary to help us balance our budget are raising concerns. However we must also be careful that we do not confuse Government's budget with the performance of the economy which is growing at a rate that many other developed economies would be envious of.
'In this environment it is important we build and maintain confidence among investors, local businesses and residents.'
The Minister highlighted the continued success of the Island's rapidly-growing E-Business sector.
'E-Business is our fastest-growing sector and of the over 100 additional jobs created in 2014, half were created with support from my Department, showing the value of public/private partnership.
'We have had further good news in this sector recently with Microgaming receiving Planning approval for expanding its HQ in Douglas which will see it create many further jobs and also provide a well over £10million boost for the local Construction sector.
'Additionally, a formal agreement has now been made with Government which commits ICT Limited to purchase the Nunnery site and develop it into a world-class IT training centre. These initiatives will boost our plans to continue to grow the Island's E-Business sector.'
The Minister also highlighted that unlocking the potential of key strategic sites around the Isle of Man would be an important factor in encouraging further inward investment. The Minister said:
'Following the success to date of the regeneration and redevelopment of our town centres I am committed to ensuring that future projects are more joined up across Government and driven by inward investment from private investors.
'This is why my Department is leading a new cross-Government Development Team to ensure we work together to develop some of our strategic sites across the Isle of Man and to deliver the Central Douglas Masterplan.
'We have just issued Expressions of Interest for the development of the Lord Street and Parade Street areas around Douglas Quayside. These sites offer both significant opportunities for private investors and for enhancement in the Island's quality of life through, for example, a hotel and leisure facilities such as a multi-screen cinema. Developments such as these are also important in attracting new business and residents to the Island.
'I am also pleased to confirm that John Shimmin MHK has been appointed as a Member of the Department. He will not have a specific delegation but rather will use his substantial experience to provide support across the Department in realising our ambitious plans to grow the Island's economy in 2015 and beyond, notably with the new cross-Government Development Team.'
The Minister highlighted the local Visitor Economy with provisional figures showing that last summer's leisure visitor numbers were well over 10% up on the same period for 2013.
'I am highly encouraged by the resurge in confidence in our Visitor Economy which is very important for the Isle of Man given that the sector supports over 4,000 direct jobs in tourist accommodation, transport, heritage, leisure, restaurants, bars and cafes.
'Exciting recent developments have included the announcements of new air routes by Easyjet and Flybe to Bristol and Stansted respectively, which opens up the Island to millions more people who live within one hour's travel of those airports.
'Additionally we are supporting the Isle of Man Cycling Association's bid to host the 2016 British Cycling National Road Championships.
'With a number of exciting developments in the pipeline that promise to enhance the quality of our offering for visitors, I believe that the industry is in a better place now than it has been for a number of years.
The Minister concluded by saying:
'We are seeing real growth across our export-generating sectors and I believe that in 2015 local people will start to see the benefits of increased confidence in the local economy through increased earnings and further creation of new jobs.'