Mon 21st Oct 2013
Oct 13: Successful conference must now produce dividends
The Investment Conference, of course, was ‘the only show in town’ last week and proved to be a very successful and extremely well organised initiative that showcased the very many advantages that investors can harness to enhance their business.
The high-value delegates are all back at their desks around the globe with plenty to think about. The hard work for Invest Northern Ireland to convert the interest generated into firm business projects now really begins.
While the welcome announcement by Stream Global of 1,000 new jobs in Belfast commanded the headlines in the run up to the big event in Titanic, I was impressed by successes announced by several locally-owned companies. These served to highlight the many positive developments underway, often under the radar and usually involving much smaller enterprises in several key sectors.
These announcements also reinforced the positive buzz from local business surrounding our earlier ‘Growing Something Brilliant’ conference in Titanic. There really are brilliant things going on within the locally owned sector.
The recent successes from local companies which captured my attention were the acquisition by Cirdan Imaging in Lisburn of a subsidiary of the huge GE Healthcare corporation, the expansion by Etain Software in Belfast, the multi-million deal won by Edge Innovate in Dungannon in South Africa, and the successes of Derry’s Flite Fluid Systems and Choc o Bloc of Newtownards in China. Both Etain and Flite are leaders in software, with Flite a specialist in sophisticated software for oil, gas and water pipelines. Choc-o-Bloc has created a chocolate toy that is being marketed with China’s biggest children’s television programme.
We’ve grown accustomed to American corporations snapping up our brightest and best companies over the years, but Cirdan effectively turned this on its head by buying a small part of GE Healthcare. We need to see more local companies following in the footsteps of Hugh Cormican, Cirdan’s entrepreneurial managing director and a founder of the hugely successful Andor Technology in Belfast. And why not? We’ve got the talent here. We’ve potential world beaters. We have to have more confidence and much greater ambition to enable Northern Ireland really to become brilliant.
Edge Innovate is operating in an industry – materials handling – for which Northern Ireland has a reputation for brilliance in engineering design, manufacture and customer engagement. It’s an industry, centred on Dungannon, Cookstown and Omagh, which has attracted multinationals like the US Terex Corporation, which announced almost 300 new jobs in Omagh last week, and Sweden’s Sandvik to acquire companies that started here. Yet the industry that was effectively created by Tyrone agri-engineer John Finlay in the seventies continues to produce local businesses like Edge Innovate that are becoming increasingly successful abroad. And there are others in this and many more industries.
Probably the best sales people for Northern Ireland abroad are senior managers from local companies that are winning business abroad… and making the Americans, European, Japanese and Chinese sit up and take notice of the many brilliant enterprises and entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas.