Northern Ireland businesses showing great resilience against uncertain backdrop

Courtesy of Tourism NI

By Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland business community has had a lot to contend with over recent years from the ongoing hiatus at Stormont to the continuing uncertainty that still shrouds Brexit.

Rather than allow these (largely political) matters to deter them however, local firms are continuing to invest and grow.

It is a show of tremendous resilience against a very gloomy backdrop, that has been the hallmark of local companies over many decades.

The reasons for the currently bleak environment are well known. We are now less than four weeks out from the date the UK is officially due to leave the European Union and still unclear as to what the future holds.

Next week’s series of crucial parliamentary votes should finally resolve the issue of whether we are to crash out, leave at the end of this month with some sort of deal or, see the whole process delayed.

Thankfully, guidance on how to cope with a ‘no deal’ Brexit is becoming clearer, with government continuing to provide updates on the matter while the Irish government has unveiled its ‘no deal’ plan.

It’s late, but nobody thought we would get this close to 29th March without agreement. That we have done, is bordering on unforgivable.

Meanwhile, we have now gone almost 800 days without local government ministers sitting around an executive table making key decisions on the future of Northern Ireland and our economy.

Ask the average person on the street however, and they’ll probably say they have seen little difference during that time – but it can’t last.

Permanent secretaries across all Northern Ireland departments have stepped up to the plate and processed some of the decisions that should have been taken by ministers.

Their enhanced powers, granted by the Secretary of State Karen Bradley, are limited however and are not a permanent solution to the political vacuum.

Despite all this, businesses are getting on with the task of creating jobs and wealth for the good of everyone.

Last month, manufacturing firm CDE Global unveiled its impressive new headquarters in Cookstown following a multi-million pound investment that it forecasts will result in the creation of 150 jobs by the end of 2020.

PwC meanwhile is preparing to move its Belfast headquarters to the city’s £70m Merchant Square development, of which it will be the anchor tenant.

Deloitte is also investing heavily and will become the main occupier of the Bedford Square development in Belfast city centre, as part of an £85m project.

It doesn’t end there. Software firm Kainos is set to relocate to new flagship Belfast premises after purchasing the Bankmore Square site – currently occupied by Movie House Cinemas – for £7m.

If these are the success stories we hear from our resilient businesses during times of uncertainty, just think of what could be achieved if politicians, both locally and at Westminster had, mirrored their ability to work together and get on with the job.

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