Northern Ireland's business environment is better than ever, says Concentrix boss
The business environment in Northern Ireland is better than ever, according to the head of American technology firm Concentrix.
Chris Caldwell is president of the US contact centre and business services company which employs over 54,000 staff, including 1,800 people in four Northern Ireland locations.
He said that despite its global reach, Belfast is still a strategic location for Concentrix.
In 2011 Concentrix, a subsidiary of Fortune 500 company the SYNNEX Corporation, took over gem.
Gem, short for 'global email' company, was set up in 2000 by Belfast businessman Philip Cassidy.
He is now managing director of European services for Concentrix, which plans to open a new delivery centre this year, in the former Maysfield Leisure Centre.
Mr Caldwell was in Belfast to address over 150 members of the Northern Ireland business community at an event hosted by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Ulster Bank.
"The message to entrepreneurs is that the barriers to doing business in Northern Ireland are a lot less than they were," he said.
"A lot of this has come about because of technology, which has enabled people in Belfast to connect to clients all over the world.
"The business environment in Northern Ireland is very good, specifically in Belfast, people are seeing Northern Ireland as a destination more and more, due to the educated workforce and a more progressive nature in the city."
However, he added that with Belfast fast becoming a go-to destination for IT firms, financial and business services centres and legal companies, space is at a premium.
"When Maysfield opens we will have five facilities in Belfast and it is becoming harder and harder to get a base, which is why we bought a leisure centre and are renovating it for office use," he said.
"We have no plans to move outside of Belfast, we've got locations around the world and Belfast is a strategic location for us.
"It would be helpful if there was more available office space for those who want to invest or expand."
And there is no sign that the expansion of Concentrix is going to stop any time soon. Last year it acquired IBM's global customer care and industry process services and Mr Caldwell said that the company is focused on continuing growth.
"We're always on the lookout for acquisitions which could add value to our business, growth is a key driver both for us and for our staff, as it helps attract, maintain and keep our key people."
He said that while he was pleased with the standard of staff in Belfast, software developers are at a premium because of the competitive nature of the industry, adding: "In software development, we definitely don't see as many people as we'd like to."