Software could be our new manufacturing, says boss
Software development could become the modern equivalent of Northern Ireland's manufacturing heritage, the head of a growing firm in the sector said.
Etain managing director Peter Shields spoke as his workforce almost doubled in size with the creation of 34 new software jobs which will contribute around £1.1m per year in salaries.
He said the evolution of the Belfast-based firm had enabled it to target bigger markets and bigger companies, leading to the present expansion – towards which Invest NI has contributed.
"Over the last three or four years particularly we have grown in the Dublin and Cork markets on the island of Ireland. We're now servicing north, south east and west."
It also looks after the IT requirements of a number of local authorities in England – and sporting bodies, such as the Golfing Union of Ireland.
Most of its clients are in the private sector and include banks such as KBC, Ulster and Danske banks, and Bank of Ireland.
Mr Shields – who in the past worked in Belfast's shipyards and for planemaker Shorts – said there was now a "fantastic opportunity" for Northern Ireland to cultivate a global reputation for software.
He said: "I worked in the shipyard for a number of years and in Shorts and now software is the modern equivalent of our manufacturing and engineering heritage."
Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said Northern Ireland's manufacturing reputation would abide but IT was growing in importance, adding: "Today we we should rightly be proud of the reputation Northern Ireland companies have built, both through the indigenous companies like Etain and also international firms that have come to join us."
Etain was set up in 1999 to develop software for business for UK and Ireland customers.
Invest NI has offered Etain over £324,000 of support towards the 34 new jobs and an associated skills development programme.