The Banbridge District has over 2225 businesses, 99.1% of which have fewer than 10 employees. Only one business has more than 200 employees. The area has an Enterprise Centre and a Business Centre, both located on the Scarva Road in Banbridge, to accommodate small businesses and new business starts-ups. High occupancy levels at both facilities have led to the Enterprise Centre being extended to provide a further 13,000 square feet of workspace. An Enterprise Centre is also located in Rathfriland with 200 square feet of workspace. Over 300 new businesses have been established in the area since 2002 creating over 500 new jobs. According to the New Earnings Survey published in April 2011, the average gross weekly earnings in the District is £351.70. It ranked the 11th lowest of all council areas in Northern Ireland. Two major development projects, Bridgewater Park and Gilford Mill are planned for the District. Bridgewater Park has planning permission for 7 light industrial units approximately 2540 square feet each. It is proposed that Gilford Mill will be restored to provide the area with an upmarket hotel, health spa and business conference centre.
Employment and Unemployment
The District has one of the lowest levels of unemployment in Northern Ireland. 347 people were unemployed in the District in January 2006, equivalent to 1.3% of the population of working age. The highest level of employment can be found in its service sector at 63%, followed by the manufacturing sector at 16%, the construction sector at 12%, agriculture at 5% and other sectors at 4%. The largest areas of employment within the service sector are retail (16.33%), health and social work (11.47%) and education (6.93%). Banbridge has experienced a high number of redundancies, particularly in the manufacturing and textile sector. According to a report published in 2003 by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), 241 persons were made redundant between June 2002 and May 2003, accounting for 4.3% of the total redundancies in Northern Ireland during that period.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing play an important role in the Districtís economy with a total of 40,058 hectares being used in 2003 for farming purposes. Its 1,210 farms account for 4% of the total number of farms in Northern Ireland. 3% of farms in the area are classified as large, 13% as medium and 84% as either small or very small. The average farm size in the District in 2003 was 31.3 hectares, whereas the average size in Northern Ireland was 31.9 hectares. Approximately 2390 people work in the Districtís agricultural sector. Cattle, sheep and dairy are the most common types of farm businesses. The Mourne Heritage Trust is a key organisation working to develop and support the Districtís rural economy.