Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce push to 'grow something brilliant'

At the event in Titanic Belfast yesterday are (from left) David Manning from Airtricity, Mark Nodder from the NI Chamber of Commerce, Leigh Meyer from Citigroup, and Dale Farm's David Dobbin

Around 500 of Northern Ireland's business people have pledged to roll up their sleeves at the launch of a new scheme to grow Northern Ireland's economy.

"Growing Something Brilliant" is the brainchild of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and it was set in motion at Titanic Belfast yesterday.

Its aim, thought up after the Prime Minister David Cameron delayed a decision on whether to devolve corporation tax-setting powers to Stormont, is to inspire more businesses to set up, grow and export.

Organisers said they haven't given up on chances of tax setting powers being devolved, but wanted to spur the economy here on in the meantime. Among the speakers at the event were Leigh Meyer, managing director of Global FX and Money Market Operations at Citigroup – the US bank which has a large back office in Belfast – and David Dobbin, group chief executive at United Dairy Farmers.

Chamber of Commerce President Mark Nodder said there is still a lot of work to be done.

"Northern Ireland has the smallest business and employment base across the UK regions. "Since 2007 our overall business population has fallen by 13% and... we are one of only two UK regions where it is continuing to contract.

"We are also the only UK region where the business birth rate remains in decline. We also have only 1,400 goods exporters and to give a sense of scale, that's just 1.2% of our existing business base. This number has fallen from a peak of 1,700 in 2009.

"Today we challenged businesses. We asked the manufacturer who employs 1,000 people what it would take to employ another thousand and the SME who employs five people what support they need to employ another one.

"We asked our biggest exporters how they managed to break into those markets and how we can inspire others to follow in their footsteps."

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