A series of commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive and other key stakeholders will help the local economy keep growing - that was the message from Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce President Mark Nodder as he spoke to an audience of over 600 people at the annual President’s Banquet at Titanic Belfast.
The NI Chamber of Commerce President’s Banquet, titled ‘NI Chamber Rocks’, was organised in line with Belfast Music Week and celebrated the creative industries in Northern Ireland.
Dignitaries present at the sold out gala dinner included the Ministers for Finance and Personnel, Employment and Learning, Social Development and Regional Development.
Mr Nodder was also joined by Belfast-born guest speaker Paul Smith, founder of Celador, creator of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Executive Producer of Slumdog Millionaire.
Speaking at the event, Mr Nodder said: “We are recognising the contribution of our creative industries to the economy and local culture. This sector harnesses individual skills, talent and creativity whilst generating wealth and developing intellectual property. It has put Northern Ireland on a world stage through film and television productions and must be commended for its contribution to the Northern Ireland economy.
“Recent business barometers show that business confidence in the province is on a positive trend at last. If we are to continue this trend we must receive some commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive and other key stakeholders.
“Firstly, the executive must not allow David Cameron to renege on his pledge to look sympathetically at corporation tax devolution after the referendum on Scottish independence. The Executive must also sort out the planning system once and for all. It is a barrier to investment, and it needs urgent reform. Lastly we need urgent resolution from the executive around protests and parades. We know it will take negotiation, compromise and concession by all but this must stop now. Businesses operating in tourism need visitors; our large SME base needs large inward investors to supply; ours exporters need to demonstrate security of supply and our young people need jobs.
“Finally we ask that Banks engage with the new Access to Finance Implementation Panel, help our SME’s develop business plans for growth and take some measured risk.”
Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA was guest speaker at the President’s Banquet. Addressing the audience the Minister said:
“The ‘Growing Something Brilliant’ campaign by the Chamber has been a fantastic success showcasing the best of Northern Ireland business, encouraging businesses to grow and to illustrate how we in government can help. Growing a sustainable economy remains a top priority for me and my Executive colleagues.
“Together we will continue to do what we can to help create an enabling environment for businesses by improving access to finance and pursuing the devolution of corporation tax. We recognise the challenges faced in rebuilding and rebalancing the economy and the Chamber’s work in supporting growth is central to that strategic goal.
“In partnership with the Chamber and others, I believe we can make progress on this key ambition.”
Colm O’Neill, Chief Executive Officer at BT Northern Ireland said: “As official communications partner we are delighted to sponsor tonight’s banquet, celebrating our creative industries and the continued great work of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. BT, as always, remains committed to providing the business community with access to our world class fibre network and to supporting the Northern Ireland economy through employment and infrastructure development.
“Recent events such as the G8 Summit and NI Investment conference have been very successful in communicating Northern Ireland’s position as a prime investment hub. However, the business community now needs to capitalise on that by utilising available resources such as fibre and we will continue to support the chamber’s efforts to maximise these growth opportunities for the business sector both locally and internationally”.
Guests at the event were also entertained by local artists and performers from a breadth of creative genres throughout the event, including local band Silhouette and the Voice’s Conor Scott.