THE Mid-Ulster region is a key player in Northern Ireland’s economy according to the head of business at Northern Bank.
Speaking on behalf of one of the main sponsors of the Mid-Ulster Mail and Tyrone Times Business Awards, Ivan McMinn described the region as a “hub” of entrepreneurship and engineering excellence.
As well as addressing an elite club of the area’s most successful industry representatives. Mr Mc Minn welcomed Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, local councillors, and representatives of the event’s sponsors to the glittering ceremony held on Dungannon’s historic Hill of the O’Neill on Wednesday, September 26th.
“It’s a pleasure to be in the company here tonight of so many folks who are connected to the wide variety of businesses represented in the Mid-Ulster area, a region which has always been, and continues to be, increasingly important to the Northern Ireland economy,” said Mr McMinn.
“Like the rest of Northern Ireland and indeed like many economies across the globe, the local District Councils in this part of Northern Ireland have felt the impact of the global economic downturn. Domestic and business incomes have typically been squeezed with high energy costs and flat sales - and the local retail industry, which has traditionally accounted for nearly one in five jobs in this area, has experienced a sharp contraction.”
Despite this, added Mr McMinn, Mid-Ulster has continued to thrive in the area’s of entrepreneurship and engineering.
He said: “As a direct consequence, the manufacturing sector in this part of Northern Ireland remains strong and continues to be a key employer, accounting for roughly 20 per cent of employment within Mid-Ulster.”
“This is a sector that many now recognise will be vital for growing Northern Ireland’s export base and this same manufacturing sector will undoubtedly play a leading role in driving the local economic recovery when global conditions start to improve.”
The Northern Bank businessman also touched upon what he called “positive signals” coming from Europe, predicting 2013 to be a “much better year” for not only export opportunities, but the global economy as a whole.
“Agriculture too is a prominent player in this local economy and as world demand for commodities continues to rise, driven by growing populations as well as economic growth in emerging markets, our local agricultural sector is perfectly capable of positioning itself to meet that future demand,” said Mr McMinn.
“Currently manufacturing and public sector employment dominate the local landscape but local infrastructure improvements across Northern Ireland in particular widespread access to broadband means that the potential for growing tradable service companies in this region should not be forgotten.
“A local Dungannon company can just as easily bid for an international consulting, architectural or even marketing contract just as well as a company located in Belfast, or indeed London, or New York. Rural economies in NI are thankfully no longer isolated when it comes to doing business.”
Emphasising that economic challenges still remain in Mid-Ulster and beyond, Mr McMinn talked about the importance of strategic support from local council level.
“The importance of setting an economic strategy at the regional district council level is vital for ensuring that local communities have the skills. the infrastructure and the support necessary for achieving sustainable economic growth that is consistent with the vision set out in Northern Ireland’s Economic Strategy.”
He continued: “Banks too have a key role to play in that growth and Northern Bank is fully committed to assist in that quest.
“Northern is the only bank in the province to have a Belfast based Chief Executive, supported by a full senior management team, also based locally. The result is that we have the ability to approve 95 per cent of our credit decisions locally, which speeds up the decision process dramatically.”
The business centre boss also highlighted Northern Bank’s move to adopt the name of its Danish parent, Danske Bank at the Mid-Ulster Business Awards.
“Our rebranding to Danske comes part in parcel of a commitment from Danske that they are fully committed to the Irish and Northern Irish markets,” he said.
“And as a consequence our customers will soon see further enhancements to our already market leading business e banking systems and to our overall service to our customers.”