FINANCE Minister Conor Murphy visited a number of businesses across Strabane this week to see first-hand how they have benefitted from the financial support offered by his department during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister also spoke with businesses about their recovery and their future plans.
During lockdown and the subsequent restrictions, businesses across the Derry City and Strabane District Council area availed of millions of pounds worth of support via a number of schemes.
According to the Department of Finance. local businesses have benefitted from more than £74m of financial support through various grant schemes and rates holidays and Mr Murphy said he was keen to meet with some of those who received the support to find out more about how it has helped them.
For most, the financial support was the difference in being able to remain in business.
During his time in the town, the Minister visited the Fir Trees Hotel, Playstations Adventure centre and McColgans Quality Foods.
"Over the course of the pandemic, my department has worked extremely hard to support as many businesses as possible and it is so encouraging to get the opportunity to visit some of them to hear directly from them how our range of grant schemes and the rates holiday have been such a lifeline," he said.
"It was also great to get the chance to have positive conversations with these businesses owners about the future.
"We talked about a range of issues including the need for investment and the importance of regeneration and it was clear to me that there is a drive and determination to work towards a bright future, not only for their own businesses, but also for the Strabane area."
Describing his visit as "very, very positive", the Minister added: "We've had an excellent visit to Strabane.
“We had the opportunity to meet with a variety of businesses - Playstations, a soft play area who received support during the pandemic.
"The Fir Trees Hotel, which is a wonderful facility, which has invested some of the money it received as business grants in improving the hotel and is ready for business again.
"And, McColgan's food processing which employs almost 300 people in Strabane, an area at a very traditional high level of unemployment.
"These are very important businesses in this area but they were also able to give us a general sense of what is needed in the Strabane area in terms of investment generally in the North West and (for) an improved economic picture - but specifically for Strabane and Strabane town centre, what people here want to see happening so that they can assist in growing the economy here in creating better jobs, in having people stay and make lives for themselves here,
"So, it was a very, very positive picture."