Strabane’s strategic location means it can add to its available labour pool from bordering centres of population including Londonderry, Letterkenny and Omagh.
Of a total population of 37,000, 23% are aged between 20-34 with 26.3% under 16%. As the trend across Europe points to an ageing population Strabane is well placed to dynamically resource the labour requirements of today and tomorrow.
Education results in Strabane rank amongst the best in the UK with students consistently achieving higher than average grades. In 1999 Strabane produced the highest results in the North West at GCSE level with 96% of students in one school achieving 7 or more GCSE passes at Grades A*-C. This compares favorably with the Northern Ireland Grammar School average of 88%.
Strabane’s Further Education campus and other similar institutions at Letterkenny, Londonderry and Omagh have the resources to align courses to meet specific industry needs. During 1998/99 almost 4000 students from Strabane District were enrolled on Courses at Further Education colleges. Approximately 50% of these included business and information technology.
Structured training courses in Administration and Information/Communication Technology attract more that 300 trainees each year. The skillset in the labour force is therefore varied and constantly updated. The Call Centre programme, delivered at Letterkenny Institute of Technology is a new initiative introduced to meet the needs of emerging business.
Investors in Strabane can avail of the research and development support of the University of Ulster and Queens University, Belfast. Both Universities are active in promoting links with industry and in developing the local information communication technology (ICT) base. The University of Ulster at Magee College is 30 minutes from Strabane and recently launched a Technology and Software Incubator Centre to support the development of IT excellence and innovation. Approximately 700 students from Strabane District currently study at NI Universities.
Strabane is located on 5 main transport routes, the most significant being the North West Corridor that provides access to Dublin via the A5/N2 and Belfast via the A6. The City of Derry Airport at Eglinton is less than 30 minutes drive and the Belfast International Airport is approximately 100 minutes offering regular direct flights to international destinations and connecting flights to other hub airports.
Londonderry Port which is equipped to handle ships of up to 30,000 tonnes is only 30 minutes away.
Strabane has a well developed fibre-optic telecommunications network which provides the inward investor with total flexibility and high speed access to the world’s information systems. Further investment in broadband telecommunications services and R&D programmes will strengthen the technology enterprise sector.
Strabane has a modern electricity delivery system that provides instant connectivity, regardless of demand, to all business customers.
The towns of Castlederg, Newtownstewart, Sion Mills, Plumbridge and Donemana, all renowned for their outstanding natural beauty, are part of the District. The area boasts 2 golf courses and excellent sporting facilities for cricket, bowls, rugby, Gaelic football, sub-aqua, speedboat racing and canoeing.The Foyle River system known to prominent local fishermen as salmon fishing’s best kept secret flows through the District. And of course there is the legendary hospitality to look forward to.
Two excellent hospital facilities, Altnagelvin Hospital, located 20 minutes from Strabane and Tyrone County Hospital 30 minutes from Strabane, combine with 5 local health centres to service the needs of the District.
House costs are highly competitive in Strabane with prices well below the NI and UK average. The average house price is £62,495 (NI Quarterly Price Index, February 2000).
Sustainable development is at the core of the many regeneration strategies that are underway in the District’s towns and villages. An example of this is the Strabane 2000 initiative which is sensitively reshaping the town centre.
Strabane has a proud tradition in manufacturing with 35% of its workforce employed in the sector. Amongst the best known of its local companies are:
Adria – the largest supplier of hosiery to Marks & Spencer Leckpatrick – one of Ireland’s major dairy companies Herdmans – one of the biggest linen producers in Europe Octupus Sports Wear – major sports wear manufacturer Mopack Systems – successful packaging company McColgan Quality Foods – European food manufacturer
Strabane District offers one of the lowest operating costs in Europe as a result of highly competitive wage rates – 67% of UK average costs. Rental prices also remain very competitive with the average cost for office space £250-£300 per week (ground floor with frontage) and £86.50 per week (approximately 132.6 sq. m.) industrial space.
Within the current Area Plan, 15.34 hectares of land has been zoned for industrial purposes in Strabane town and there is also 8.55 hectares zoned for industrial purposes in Sion Mills, Castlederg and Newtownstewart.
Additional modern industrial premises are available throughout the District for both large investors and small to medium sized enterprises.