More than 40 jobs have been created with the opening of a new hotel in Londonderry city centre.

The 119 bedroom hotel is the second largest hotel in Londonderry and is located on the bustling Strand Road.

The Holiday Inn Express on Strand Road opened its doors following investment of £7m.

The opening coincides with the Foyle Cup soccer tournament and teams from Glenavon FC, Barnsley FC and Beann Mhádagháin FC are among the hotel’s first guests.

It has 119 bedrooms and becomes the second largest hotel in Derry. Located on the bustling Strand Road and a short walk to the historic city wall the hotel is the latest edition to a growing tourism and conference offering in the city that supports 4,685 jobs and has witnessed year on year growth.

North West Regional College (NWRC) has scooped two prestigious awards at the local annual Business Awards.

Derry’ is set to host its inaugural LegenDerry Street Food Festival Friday 19 to Sunday 21 July, Derry City and Strabane District Council has announced today.

The European Union has announced that it will provide almost €9m (£7.98m) in funding for a 30-acre park that will cross the Northern Ireland border.

he project spans 30 acres linking Strabane and Lifford

The Riverine project, which is designed to increase cross-border understanding, will stretch from Strabane, a town in west Tyrone, to Lifford, a town in the neighboring county of Donegal.

The money comes from a €270m pot of funding that was created by the EU in 2014 to support peace and reconciliation projects in both Northern Ireland and the counties in Ireland that sit along the seamless border.

Some €9m will also be provided by Ireland’s rural and community development department, and Northern Ireland’s communities department.

Gina McIntyre, from the EU body that awards the funding, noted that the project would create a “shared space which citizens can enjoy together, irrespective of their background.”

The money will be used to build a pavilion building, outdoor wetland and park space, cross-border pathways, and a pedestrian footbridge that will span the River Foyle. Riverine will host a community heritage engagement programme and a culture and peace activity trail.

A creative arts programme and a shared space connections project are also planned.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Michaela Boyle said that the project could be a “real catalyst for transformation” and said that it would “further strengthen” cross-border links.

Ireland’s Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, said the EU funding “is a major boost for the area”.

Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities said the project “provides a great opportunity to further our ambitions for a shared, welcoming and confident society that respects diversity.”

MULTI-award winning technology giant Allstate is in negotiations to move into a new purpose-built 850-seat flagship office block in Derry, the Irish News can reveal.

The company, one of Northern Ireland’s first major IT inward investors, is understood to have identified a site at Ebrington, and expects the building to be open within two to three years.

The ambitious move will consolidate its operations in the north west, where it already employs around 800 staff at sites in Derry’s Northland Road and in Strabane.

The existing city office is likely to close under the new arrangement, but the Strabane facility will be retained, and it is thought a significant number of new jobs will be added to its current 2,100-strong payroll.

The company would not reveal exact details of the relocation when contacted by the Irish News given the early stages of its vision.

But a spokesman confirmed that “our real estate team in the US is currently in talks with developers” about creating the new Derry hub.

Allstate is already running at maximum capacity in Derry, and such is the speed of its organic growth that is it having to hire 100 seats at the Catalyst science park building in the city just to alleviate its current capacity problem.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Allstate Corporation, the largest publicly owned property and casualty insurance company in the US, Allstate has been a significant part of the business landscape in Northern Ireland for 20 years.

And its latest expansion will be seen as demonstrating confidence in the region’s highly educated workforce, competitive cost base and its research and development capability.

The Derry facility will be a slightly smaller scale version of the new 140,000 sq ft headquarters building which Allstate opened at Mays Meadow in Belfast last June as part of a £30 million investment.

That building, located between Central Station and the River Lagan, was completed in just two years. It spans six floors and includes large sociable working spaces, break-out areas, outdoor terrace and high-tech software development labs.

The project also involved extensive refurbishment of the tow path, adjacent boat marina and a restaurant unit at ground level.

At the time, Allstate NI’s managing director John Healy described the office as “a truly ground-breaking facility – an inspirational working space fit for a world-class technology organisation with a commitment to innovation, imagination and building digital technology of the future.”

The company first dipped its toe into the Northern Ireland market in 1999 as Northbrook Technology before rebranding to Allstate in 2008.

Throughout its history the company has consistently reinvested to become one of the biggest employers of tech talent in the north.

Total financial assistance offered by Invest NI to Allstate over the past 20 years is £27.2 million.

At the opening of its Belfast headquarters last year, Secretary of State Karen Bradley said: “Allstate has been instrumental in showing that, with ambition and vision, a company can grow its workforce tenfold.

“Not only have they created one of Northern Ireland’s first major IT inward investors, but they have tapped into the wealth of talent that the local workforce provides to overseas investors, providing high-quality jobs across Belfast and the north west.

“By continually investing in their staff, and their research and development into IT excellence, the Northern Ireland team are at the forefront of digital innovation. I thank them for the pivotal role they play in developing a Northern Ireland economy fit for the future.”

Ireland North West drinks companies In Good Spirits for Philadelphia showcase:

Two North West companies are travelling to Philadelphia this week to take part in a prestigious Irish American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) Craft Drinks event.  

Locally based Baronscourt Brewing Company, and  The Muff Liquor Company from Donegal, will showcase their produce, connect with drinks distributors and business leaders with a view to expanding their networks into the Greater Philadelphia region.

The companies will travel along with representatives from Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal Local Enterprise Office, to participate in the prestigious “In Good Spirits” event, following an invitation from the Chamber of Commerce in Philadelphia

The event is part of the strategic Ireland Northwest initiative between Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council and their partners to develop in-market support for local companies to help them build relationships to support the development of export opportunities.

The Councils have been working closely with the IACC and Pennsylvania Dept. of Community & Economic Development to promote the North West region and are delighted that Baronscourt and Muff Liquor can avail of the unique opportunity to further develop their exports into the US market.

The two local companies will be joined by Teeling Whiskey, Drioglann Local Measc Distillery, as well as distillers from Philadelphia.

The “In Good Spirits” event will feature a panel discussion and question and answer session moderated by Terese Waldron, Director of Graduate Food Marketing Program at Saint Joseph’s University. There will be drinks experts from  Pennsylvania and Irish industry taking part including, Eve-Anne McCarron, Donegal Local Enterprise Office, responsible for The Food Coast Initiative); John Teeling of Teeling Whiskey; Andrew Auwerda, President & Co-Founder of Philadelphia Distilling and John Cooper, Co-Founder of Mountain Laurel Spirits (Dad’s Hat Rye).

The panel discussion will be followed by a tasting session featuring Teeling WhiskeyBaronscourt Brewing Co.The Muff Liquor CompanyLough Mask DistilleryPowers Irish WhiskeyDad’s Hat Rye Whiskey, and Manatawny Still Works. The participants will get an opportunity to pitch their products and meet with industry experts who will assist the companies seeking market entry and develop local partnerships.

Welcoming Derry City and Strabane District Council’s participation in the event, Director of Business Stephen Gillespie said the visit is part of the Ireland Northwest’s strategic objectives, aimed at assisting local companies to internationalise their business, increase their business connections and exports.

A key element of this visit is that it aligns with the objectives set out in the recently launched Council food and drink strategy.  

“This is a great opportunity for Baronscourt Brewing Co. and Muff Liquor Company to showcase their products and further develop their links with drink distributors in the US. It’s a huge privilege for us to be invited to take part in this prestigious event and to be given a platform to promote the North West region as a food and drink destination. The event will be attended by a range of influencers in the drinks sector and our participation at this showcase is testament to the ongoing relationship we have developed with Philadelphia during our trade investment visits,” he said.

Michael Tunney, Head of Enterprise with the Donegal Local Enterprise Office noted how this visit supports the wider efforts which they have been focused on through the Food Coast initiative and enterprise development goals. 

He said: “The Local Enterprise Office in Donegal has been leading out on The Food Coast iniaitiative project for over eight years now and before that we had the 315 Foods regional project covering counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan. Our ultimate objective is to grow the number and the sustainability of artisan and added –value food manufacturers in Donegal.  To achieve this we have had to work with food businesses from across the sectors, from primary producers to manufacturers, food service firms to chefs and restaurants, as well as all the regional stakeholders”

“Over this period we have also worked with Derry City & Strabane District Council on a European food project. This event in Philadelphia is yet another opportunity for food and drinks firms from the northwest to raise the profile and awareness of what is happing with food in the region and we look forward to further opportunities being developed for our local firms through this engagement. “

Alanna M. Barry McCloskey, Business Manager and Marketing Coordinator with the Irish American Business Chamber and Network said: “On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Irish American Business Chamber & Network, we are thrilled to welcome a delegation of Irish craft distillers and brewers and representatives from Derry City and Strabane and Donegal County Councils. Our visiting companies will meet with various Chamber members, local business leaders, and government representatives with the goal of expanding their networks and expanding into the Greater Philadelphia region.

“We are very much looking forward to introducing our visiting companies to the Irish Chamber membership at a special event, In Good Spirits: The Rise of Craft Distilling and Brewing in Pennsylvania and Ireland. This panel discussion and tasting session will feature both Irish and Pennsylvania companies and highlight the parallel track of the craft industries in Pennsylvania and Ireland.

“Throughout the Chamber’s 20 year history, we have welcomed delegations of Irish companies and government representatives to the Philadelphia Region. We actively work to promote the Island of Ireland in the Philadelphia region and conversely, highlight Philadelphia as a destination for Irish businesses, trade and investment.”

The delegation will depart to Philadelphia on Wednesday 15th May.

Further trade missions are scheduled to take place to both Boston and Philadlephia in November when both Councils will be supporting a range of local companies to assess their readiness to export and gear up to target and explore new business opportunities in export markets.

Significant City Deal and Economic Growth Funding Package confirmed for Derry and Strabane.

The announcement today of a £105M economic package by the UK Government in the Derry City and Strabane City Region has been widely welcomed by City and District partners with the Mayor saying it will be “a significant catalyst for change and economic growth” for the Derry City and Strabane District and the wider North West and expressed his delight that it has been secured during his Mayoral year as a key priority.

The investment package announced comprises a £50M ‘City Deal’ and a £55M ‘Inclusive Future Fund’ and is the culmination of a long period of engagement with Government in relation to advancing priority projects and initiatives within the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan and City Deal proposals.

Reflecting the model recently announced by Government for the Belfast Region City Deal, it is anticipated that the UK Government investment package announced today of £105M for Derry~Londonderry and Strabane will be at least matched by a similar commitment from the NI Executive and will lever further investment from project partners and other third party sources which it is hoped will eventually lead to an overall investment injection of in excess of £300M.

The announcement follows a visit to the City last July when the Chancellor, Philip Hammond met with civic and political leaders to hear of the plans and invited a bid for a City Deal to be formally submitted.

The bid, supported and endorsed by all local and regional political parties and representatives and devised around the key strategic economic projects outlined in the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan 2017-2032.

Led by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the bid was developed in partnership, and with the support of a wide range of local education, business and economic partners – including the Ulster University, the North West Regional College, both the Londonderry and Strabane Chambers of Commerce, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Visit Derry, City Centre Initiative and the Foyle Port, in consultation with all associated NI Government Departments.

At the core of the bid is education, innovation, job creation and skills development with a key focus being the advancement of the much sought after expansion and growth of the Magee campus of Ulster University.

The investment package announced today, will enable planning and business case development to now proceed on proposals for a significant landmark riverfront university medical education and innovation hub, comprising a graduate entry medical college and centres of innovation, research and teaching excellence in data-driven personalised medicine, cognitive analytics and robotics and automation, eventually delivering over 200 new posts/research assistants at the City’s university and upwards of 2,000 additional students.

The stimulus package will additionally advance the delivery of a range of smart city and digital infrastructure projects and initiatives, further positioning the City and District as a highly digitally enabled location for cutting-edge business development and expansion and inward investment.

The catalytic impact of this could therefore result in the single biggest ever combined and integrated funding injection the City and District, that will enable progress and delivery of other key infrastructure, tourism and regeneration projects contained within the Plan and Bid in both Derry City Centre and Riverfront and in Strabane Town Centre.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle said: “This hugely significant announcement today for the Derry and Strabane District will go some considerable way in addressing the long-standing obstacles to economic development that this City Region and its people face. It is good news and is the result of an enormous amount of work and sustained effort invested by Council and the City and Regional partners to develop, deliver and negotiate on the bid.”

Council Chief Executive John Kelpie acknowledged the collaborative approach and the unified vision and commitment demonstrated by politicians, and partner organisations in development of the bid and the advice and support received regionally and nationally in securing such a positive outcome.

Enthusiastic about the opportunity presented by today’s announcement he commented: “This City and District has seen much progress in recent years economically, physically and socially. It has however significant remaining challenges in overcoming an infrastructure deficit and a legacy of underinvestment both of which have been such inhibitors to sustainable economic growth.

“This funding package, if directed at the key agreed strategic growth projects and if used to lever significant further public and private sector investment, will deliver a new era of unprecedented growth and development for the City and Region providing tangible benefits for all of our citizens and a promising future for our children and young people.”

Other City Deal Project partners reacted equally positively with the Vice Chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paddy Nixon said, “This investment will now see the rapid development of plans to grow and enhance facilities and student numbers at the Magee Campus including the Graduate Entry Medical School.”

Brian McGrath, President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said: “This funding is hugely welcome and provides a solid platform upon which to grow and enhance the competitiveness of the City and Region and attract further significant exciting new companies, business prospects and investment.”

Council Chief Executive, John Kelpie concluded:  “The next steps will now be for everyone to continue to work together to develop the necessary detailed business plans and advance the projects through planning and design. We will do this by using this unprecedented opportunity to promote the future of this City and District as a location of choice for all in terms of business, lifestyle and ambition.”

A high-level delegation of senior UK diplomats visited Londonderry in Feb as part of a two day visit to gain a wider understanding of the political structures, strengths, and unique offer of Northern Ireland. The visit was an opportunity to engage local interests and discuss how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with other partners, is delivering support internationally for all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland. During their visit, the group met with the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Councillor John Boyle and senior officers of council where they were given an overview of the council’s Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan and the work the council is doing to secure national growth in the city region. Mayor John Boyle said the meeting was very positive in identifying opportunities the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can help to represent the city and district’s interests abroad and to assist in helping the city region achieve its ambition.

Visting Heads of Mission Discuss Derry City and Strabane Growth Plans

He said it was an excellent opportunity for the council and its stakeholders to engage directly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss common interests in terms of business, trade and investment and education opportunities. The delegation also met with representatives from Invest NI before they travelled to Seagate Technology and the Ulster University. The delegation participated in a walking tour of the Historic City Walls before sampling a range of the finest local food and drink produce a food and drink tasting event at the Bishop’s Gate Hotel that was hosted by Invest NI, before an evening reception hosted by the Mayor. Speaking after the visit the Mayor extended his thanks to the delegation saying it was hugely significant in forging links with the FCO and in sharing information that will help the region with its current business and education challenges.

He said: “This visit by the UK senior diplomats was a very important visit for the city and wider region. It was a great opportunity for us to showcase our city and the really positive work we are doing through our Strategic Growth Plan to attract investment, invest in research and education and improve our health and wellbeing. We were able to show the benefits of strategic partnership working between council, the Ulster University and Seagate and welcome the commitment of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in representing the interests of Northern Ireland Internationally.”

The Guildhall underwent a dazzling makeover on Saturday as it was transformed from civic hub to catwalk spectacular as Fashion Fest made its fabulous return.
The sell-out event was the fifth outing for the festival which has become the biggest showcase of fashion design in the North West, drawing a wide range of emerging and established names in the industry.

The show was presented by Derry Girls favourite Dylan Llewellyn, otherwise fondly known as ‘the wee English fella’ who was lured to receive a warm Derry welcome. Members of the Derry Girl cast joined fashion fans in the audience, for an evening of glamour and catwalk fashion. The theme for this year was a nod to the hit Derry Girls series and the stage and choreography was set by Style Academy’s Tracey Hall.

Leading the exciting array of designers who showcased their work on the night was stylist to the stars Kate Halfpenny, who showed pieces from her bridal collection as well as her stunning Black Edit Collection. Also attending the event was Rebecca Testi, the marketing executive of Italian international brand, Rebecca, one of the biggest internationally renowned jewellery brands.
Speaking after the event, Business Engagement Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Danielle McNally, said it had been a fantastic showcase of local talent. “I am delighted that Fashion Fest has been such a sell-out success. The dynamic range of local collections on display is a testament to the talent here in the North West and our growing profile as a fashion hub.
“To have designers of the calibre of Kate Halfpenny showing their work is a great draw, and real inspiration for our up and coming designers. I want to pay tribute to Tracey Hall and all the team at Style Academy for their flair and creativity in bringing together such a stunning show. It’s a great platform for our local design talent, and we will continue to work to support and grow the fashion industry here in the city.”

The audience enjoyed an evening of live music, song and fabulous fashion from a whole host of emerging and established designers, including Bridie Mullan, Paul Stafford, Edel O’Kane and Luke Barber.

Among the models who lit up the catwalk at the event was last year’s Face of Fashion Fest winner Oonagh Canning and with this year’s winner Lauren Burton, presenting the Mayors charity prize she will now embark on a year-long contract with Style Academy Model Agency.

Performances on the night included music by Irish Singer/Songwriter Emma Wallace and Derry’s award winning DJ, Louise DaCosta.
You can find out more about Fashion Fest at www.derrystrabane.com/fashionfest Follow us on Instagram @FashionFestDerry

The Lord Mayor of the City of London extended an invitation to a number of schools in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area to travel to London in November to take part in his Business of Trust Celebration event at the Mansion House. The invitation comes following the visit in September to the city by the Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman Charles Bowman and senior representatives from the City of London Corporation and the Honourable the Irish Society to attend a high level Londonderry City Region Economic Summit.

Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman Charles Bowman

During his visit to the City, Lord Mayor Bowman met with pupils from a number of schools to discuss the Business of Trust and ask for their recommendations for what businesses can do to increase their trustworthiness and help restore the public’s trust and confidence in the financial and professional services sector, and has since extended an invitation to nine pupils from Foyle College, St Mary’s College and St. Cecilia’s College, their teachers and a representative from Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business team to attend his prestigious Business of Trust celebration event. The schools’ participation in the event is being facilitated by the Merchant Taylors Guild and the Honourable Irish Society. Edward Montgomery from the Honourable Irish Society has welcomed the inclusion of young people from the Council area in the event saying: “The Lord Mayor of the City of London was very impressed with the young people he met when he visited the city last month and was very keen to get them involved. He said: “The Honourable Irish Society is delighted that the City of London Corporation has recognised our young people in this way and invited them to be part of this important Mayoral initiative. We are very supportive of our Council and our schools and businesses working in close collaboration with the City of London. We can learn a lot from each other and both benefit greatly from close collaborative working and linkages.” As part of the trip the schools will take a tour of the London Guildhall and get a presentation on the City of London Corporation. They will also get a tour of the BT hub, BT Tower and meet recent graduates and apprentices who have joined BT.