Wed 16th Jul 2014
Jun 14: Relishing the Challenges ahead to help businesses realise ambitions
This is my first View from the Chair as the new President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and I am delighted to share with you my vision for the year ahead as NI Chamber continues to power ahead with events and programmes aimed at helping members expand their businesses with a particular emphasis on growing exports.
I’m looking forward to the next 12 months, because I believe that this will be a crucial period for all of us in terms of recovery and growth… and this is a theme that you will find me returning to often in this column in the months ahead.
Whilst we obviously cannot be dismissive of the economic challenges that still exist, neither can we ignore the mounting evidence that the economic recovery has finally arrived.
For example, the Danske Bank Quarterly Economic Overview for Q1 is now forecasting growth of 2.3 per cent in 2014 while the local housing market continues to trend upwards with the latest DFP Residential House Price Index showing transactions were up by 28 percent in Q4 2013 and house prices rose by 4 per cent last year.
The Q1 Business Monitor from InterTradeIreland reports sales performance back at pre-crash levels, while the Ulster Bank PMI for April reported that output at companies in Northern Ireland had risen for the tenth consecutive month. Moreover, the rate of expansion was the fastest since the survey began in August 2002.
In addition to this, consumer confidence is growing.
Furthermore, hardly a week has gone by in the last couple of months without a significant investment and jobs announcement in Northern Ireland – and I want to acknowledge what a great year it has been for the team at Invest NI with 11,800 new jobs created in companies such as Concentrix, EY, Schrader Electronics, Capita and Convergys.
Tourism has also boomed. The number of tourists coming to Northern Ireland keeps rising – reaching levels above those before the recession took hold.
Recent data shows there were 2.1 million overnight visits from external residents last year – an overall increase of 6 per cent on the year before and worth £531m to the Northern Ireland economy.
However, we believe that the overall performance of the economy can be improved even further with a reduction in corporation tax and we therefore continue to campaign strongly on this matter.
The out-look is positive, but there is much more to be done. Over the next year, we must increase the number of exporters or risk lagging even further behind the rest of the UK where companies are seizing opportunities overseas.
A total of 50 per cent of the Province’s manufacturing exports are accounted for by just 10 companies whilst in Scotland, for example, 60 companies account for 50 per cent of exports.
Over the year, we also must engage with government but not wait for it to assist business growth. We, as a business community, need to be progressive and take our ambition to Stormont and Westminster so that the decision makers hear first-hand what businesses intend to do to make Northern Ireland a premier business region whose stretch goes overseas.
I relish the challenges over the next 12 months – and businesses can be assured that NI Chamber is here to provide support and help them realise their ambitions.