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DTI finishes on a high 6 April 2010

On 1 April the activities of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will form the foundation for the new Department of Economic Development. As they prepare for this important change, the DTI’s Minister, political members and senior management have been reflecting on a successful history for the Department, culminating in a particularly successful 2009.

The DTI's ultimate aim is to provide a successful, diversified economy offering employment opportunities for all by promoting diversification and the further development of new and existing businesses in the Island. The strong performance of the Island’s economy over the last 26 years has been underpinned by the increasingly diverse nature of the Island’s economy and the DTI has played a key role in this. Several of the Island’s sectors aided by the DTI enjoyed continuing success during 2009 despite an economic downturn globally.

The manufacturing sector in the Isle of Man remains the second largest wealth-creating sector after banking in terms of employment. It has grown over the last 5 years far faster than the economy as a whole (over 40% compared to less than 29% in real terms), generating over 200 jobs over that period. The Island is home to a wide range of innovative high-tech manufacturers which have been involved with high-profile global projects such as the manufacture of the Airbus A380 aircraft as well as the NASA Phoenix Mars Lander. The sector created around 35 new jobs during 2009, from apprentices to graduates to experienced engineers and scientists. DTI has played a key role in this by: helping the Aerospace Cluster of businesses to improve performance and win new sales; helping modernise provision of relevant vocational training; and providing grant assistance for vital capital investment and marketing at a time when the ‘credit crunch’ has meant such funding has been hard to find.

The Isle of Man is recognised as one of the world’s most dynamic and reputable jurisdictions in e-gaming. The ongoing success of existing companies in the sector has also helped to encourage a growing number of e-gaming businesses and software development companies to operate from the Isle of Man. This has resulted in the creation of well over 100 jobs in e-gaming locally in the last year alone, bringing the total number employed to around 550 people. The DTI has led business development activities to promote the Island worldwide, bringing in new investors such that the number of e-gaming licence holders has doubled in the last year to over 20.

The Isle of Man Ship Registry remains one of the world’s best and continues to expand despite some very difficult economic times being experienced globally. In 2009 the register grew by over 1 million gross registered tons to a new high of 10.76 million tonnes at the end of the year, a net increase of over 10%, and the 1000th vessel was also registered during the year. Despite the global shipping industry suffering a very tough year, the Island’s maritime sector stood up well to the challenges. The thriving yacht management sector ensured that the Island’s maritime sector overall continued to grow, now employing over 600 people locally and contributing significantly in terms of local spend and the employment of professional services to the sector.

The Isle of Man Aircraft Registry for high quality private and corporate aircraft has now registered well over 225 aircraft and is the fastest growing register of its type in the world showing growth of 50% over the previous year. Aircraft from all of the world’s major corporate aircraft manufacturers have already been registered, including the airliner variants from Boeing and Airbus. During 2009 the aircraft register helped to generate millions of pounds in new income for the Island’s financial institutions, lawyers and corporate service providers and valuable new jobs were created as a result.

Isle of Man Film has helped steer the Island in becoming one of the busiest areas of British film production in recent years. Overall, Isle of Man Film has been involved with the co-production and co-financing of over 90 films, television dramas and animation projects since 1995. With 2009 being a very difficult year globally for the film sector, the DTI supported three productions during the year and there are encouraging signs for future projects within the Island’s film sector in 2010 and beyond.

The DTI has also dedicated further resources to companies in the Retail sector during a challenging time for the sector. An internet shopping scheme was introduced last September to help local independent retailers and this has proven popular with over 100 firms becoming involved to date. Research of those participating in the scheme has shown generation of at least £250,000 of additional sales to date through direct online sales and increased footfall conversions for the retailers who have been helped to build an online shop through the scheme. Additionally the Department has played a leading role in the management of the Regeneration Fund which is helping to improve the Island’s town centres. Finally, a retail expert was appointed and part-funded to support the ongoing development of individual and independent retailers at a challenging time. This has been rolled out in Douglas and Ramsey so far.

With Construction in the Isle of Man experiencing a downturn recently the sector was assisted by DTI through the encouragement by the Minister of the establishment of an Accredited Construction Contractors Scheme. Inclusion on the list of accredited contractors is seen as being a strong marketing tool for those involved and as additional protection for consumers. The Minister has also coordinated senior level meetings with the sector.

The Minister for Trade and Industry Hon David Cretney MHK commented: “The DTI, working closely with colleagues in Government as well as the private sector, has shown we can develop valuable new sectors which benefit the Island as a whole. As a result, the Island’s economy is stronger and more diverse now than at any other time. If DTI had not helped to attract the e-gaming, shipping, aircraft, manufacturing and other business that the Island has won in recent years which collectively have created about a thousand jobs locally, then the level of unemployment would be at least double the level it is today.”

The DTI has helped in other ways as well.

Individuals have been helped to establish new business start-ups through both a new business incubator as well as the DTI’s proven Small Business Start Up Scheme (SBSUS). Over the last year or so, a number of workers who have been made redundant have taken the opportunity to set up their own business. Such new entrepreneurs play a key role in generating new jobs in the future. In recent years DTI has supported around 35 such new start-ups each year through SBSUS, which provides training, support and some funding to help new businesses get off to the best possible start. DTI is delighted to confirm that it has been able to double its support over the last year to around 70 businesses, providing valuable help at this challenging time within its existing budget. The incubator has also helped around 20 businesses, providing both expertise and managed office facilities to individuals seeking to set up a business locally.

The administration and enforcement of work permits has been substantially improved. Investment in new IT systems means that applications are being processed faster: over 75% are processed in 10 working days or less, far faster than those in comparable jurisdictions. Improved and more timely analysis of the labour market mean the Work Permit Committee are able to take informed decisions about specific applications. In December Tynwald unanimously approved reforms to work permits that mean a reduction of 25% in administration for employers, helping to keep down costs and enabling businesses to act promptly. Several successful convictions have helped to show that employers cannot flout work permit regulations. At the same time, a new web-based IT system will be launched soon to help employers keep track of their work permits, again easing the administrative burden.

The range of vocational training has continued to widen, with the Department providing valuable support for courses ranging from new support for the unemployed to find suitable work through to specialist qualifications in popular areas such as marketing. Investments in IT have enabled these valuable services with significantly less administration, giving better value for money. The Department helps to fund vocational training for over a thousand individuals each year and this figure has risen steadily.

In recent years the Job Centre has moved from paper-based systems to web-based systems providing real-time information about new jobs. This investment has proved timely, as it raised productivity at a vital time, enabling the same team to help twice the number of unemployed individuals that it was supporting around 2 years ago. Further investments in 2009 have meant that an IT training suite and Job Club are available to help the unemployed to raise their vocational skills and seek work. This is yielding tangible results and the personal thanks received from those who have found work is very gratifying.

Energy policy has become a high-profile issue, requiring substantial resource. DTI has built a team of 3 from within existing resources to focus on this key policy area. DTI has worked with other branches of Government and the private sector to save millions of pounds in energy costs through efficiency measures, saving money and reducing emissions. Plans are well advanced to progress both onshore and offshore wind generation. Linked to energy, the ‘clean-tech’ sector of businesses providing environmentally-friendly products and services is expanding rapidly. This is viewed as a key area for the future. Indeed, within only a few months of the DTI launching a specific campaign targeted at such businesses, we have already attracted a new investor to the Island.

The Minister for Trade and Industry Hon David Cretney MHK added: “I have enjoyed my time as Minister here at DTI. It has been very satisfying to direct this small but dedicated team in the vital task of growing our economy, helping individuals and businesses to achieve their full potential. I am sure the new Department of Economic Development will continue this policy of close co-operation with colleagues in Government and the private sector and I am confident that business in the Isle of Man will continue to flourish for many years to come as even more resources will be applied to this top priority of Government. I wish Alan Bell and his team every success and will do all I can to assist.”

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