Wed 21st Aug 2013
Aug 13: Focusing on faster growth
Are the long awaited green shoots of economic recovery starting to appear? Certainly there have been encouraging signs in business and the wider economy over the past few months. And there are also signs of recovery, albeit fragile, in the UK and eurozone is moving forward very slowly.
House prices here appear to be stabilising. Inward investment continues to provide wealth and greater employment opportunities. Established companies such as Yelo in Carrickfergus, Comtek Network Services in Newtownabbey and Noonan in Lisburn are among inward investors expanding.
While inward investment is immensely important, of course, it’s also extremely encouraging to see locally owned companies winning new business abroad and creating additional employment here. Recent examples include McErlain’s Bakery in Magherafelt, Denroy Plastics in Bangor, Andor Technology in Belfast, Creagh Concrete in Toomebridge, Mivan, Antrim and Vovomed in Downpatrick all secured substantial new business outside Northern Ireland. Moy Park in Craigavon also announced record profits for last year..
Even smaller companies in traditional sectors such as food are now making an impact abroad. Blackthorn Foods in Belfast is exporting its gourmet fudge to Europe and, most recently, Dubai and Heavenly Tasty Organics in Omagh has won business for its innovative baby weaning meals in Bahrain.
Other foods companies have also won international awards that could lead to exports. Indeed 70 food companies, mostly artisan enterprises, secured a record 340 gold stars in the recent UK Great Taste Awards. Hannan Meats in Moira, furthermore, broke all previous records in the prestigious competition by winning 44 gold stars and being the first to be listed in the Top 50 foods. In June, Fivemiletown Creamery in Tyrone became the first Northern Ireland company to win an award for outstanding innovation in the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.
Highlighting the achievement of these and other companies is the objective of our Growing Something Brilliant initiative, a key element of which will be a conference at Titanic Building on 19 September. Our aim is to inspire business here to focus on faster growth as a means to drive economic recovery.
Companies, both large and small and in all sectors, however, are still finding difficulty in securing funding for growth from the banks. Unemployment, especially among young people, remains unacceptably high. We need to see more companies being able to offer young people opportunities through mechanism such as apprenticeships.
Tackling unemployment, nurturing the green shoots and delivering growth in both near and long terms requires firm direction from both the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive in areas such as fiscal incentives, infrastructural investment and on politico-social initiatives to reduce tension and prevent further disorder on the streets likely to impact recovery adversely.