Fri 22nd May 2015
NI Chamber calls for action to grow the economy
Political stability and a Northern Ireland Executive pulling together on the economy is vital for business growth in Northern Ireland – that was just one of the messages contained in Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s action plan for growing the Northern Ireland economy published today.
The document has been launched by the business organisation following consultation with its membership of 1,200 companies from across Northern Ireland and includes almost 40 recommendations across 5 priority areas in order to achieve growth and prosperity across the region.
“The importance of political stability and a Northern Ireland Executive pulling together on the economy cannot be underestimated” said Kevin Kingston, President of NI Chamber.
“Political stability is a key facilitator of economic growth and Northern Ireland is already lagging behind the other UK regions in terms of a recovery. Through our action plan we have set out a number of proposals which we see as the key principles for driving the growth of the economy under the headings of skills, infrastructure, supporting investment, cutting costs for business and growing exports.”
Ann McGregor MBE, Chief Executive of NI Chamber said: “Our Growing Something Brilliant plan sets out a number of recommendations to help overcome barriers to business growth. These are practical, pragmatic and achievable and the goals are shared by companies in every county of Northern Ireland. We call on the Northern Ireland Executive and local authorities, regardless of location or political colour, to work together – and with us – to make it a reality.”
NI Chamber’s comments around political stability are being reiterated throughout the business community. Ian Henry, a Director at the Henry Brothers, one of Northern Ireland’s leading construction firms based in Magherafelt, said economic prosperity could only be achieved by political stability with the Northern Ireland Executive working in unity:
“A stable political environment is crucial for local businesses as our government needs to start working together to get confidence back into Northern Ireland. Government needs to issue a planned pipeline of infrastructure projects that it intends to release over the next three years so everyone is aware of its commitment to funding within Northern Ireland. In turn, this will help provide the confidence we need.”
The Growing Something Brilliant Action Plan identifies five key areas that must be addressed by the Northern Ireland Executive:
- Growing Northern Ireland’s global trade potential – Building international networks, investing in our export skills base and removing barriers to trade will support Northern Ireland businesses to compete on a global stage.
- Supporting long-term business investment – Encouraging and supporting investment in dynamic businesses, including access to finance, is critical in driving the rebalancing of the Northern Ireland economy that is so badly needed to improve productivity and encourage competitiveness.
- Developing the talents and ambitions of our citizens – Preparing young people for the world of work, investing in the skills of those already at work, and ensuring that we have the skills required to grow the economy, are essential to Northern Ireland’s competitiveness.
- Driving down business costs and taxes – Costs and taxes are a major challenge to all businesses, in particular manufacturers. Reducing costs and the amount of tax that firms pay will boost businesses competitiveness, investment and jobs.
- Rebuilding Northern Ireland’s business infrastructure – A world-class economy needs world-class infrastructure to support economic growth, and businesses need certainty that crucial improvements will be delivered.
What our members say…
Patrick Leggett, Director at Xperience Group:“There is a definite shortage of people with strong software development and Microsoft skills. From an SME perspective, FDI can increase competition for skills, so we need access to, and support to, develop more local talent to ensure that we are not exposed and able to continue to expand.”
Alan Lowry, Managing Director of Environmental Street Furniture (ESF):“At present we sell into USA, Middle East and also have partners throughout Europe and into Australia. However for all these flights, we currently have to travel to Dublin for better prices and more direct route options. We need investment into our local air routes otherwise it will limit investment from outside Northern Ireland. Whilst ESF is a small company we are very much outward focused and we feel that support for global trade would help us and similar businesses to world-wide success. As a company we struggle for support for export ventures and even though we have currently a very strong overseas supply chain, further investment locally could really assist in this matter.”
Karen Yates, Owner of Zing- Digital|Design|Display:“It is great to see that more SMEs are now getting involved in procurement and winning tenders – the process has now been opened up and people understand it. There is a great opportunity for the Northern Ireland Executive, and for public bodies who provide tenders, to look at how innovation can be highlighted in the procurement process. Currently, the rules are restrictive which means that if a company has an innovative service or product, no allowance is made within the tender to describe it or elaborate on it. There are opportunities here not only for small businesses to compete, but also for government and larger businesses to save money and run more efficiently.”
Ian Henry, Director at the Henry Brothers: “Our road networks and infrastructure needs to be addressed across the country as this is not helping inward and outward investment. We are too reliant on our road network and have not invested enough in other means of transport over the years therefore leaving us well behind Ireland and other countries that we should be competing against. A stable political environment is crucial for local businesses as our government needs to start working together to get confidence back into Northern Ireland. Government needs to issue a planned pipeline of infrastructure projects that it intends to release over the next three years so everyone is aware of its commitment to funding within Northern Ireland. In turn, this will help provide the confidence we need.”
John Haran, Director of HMC Global:“Graduates often lack practical work experience, soft skills and an awareness of business development and its importance. Our growth is dependent on the availability and development of these skills and anything which can be done to assist us develop our people is paramount.”