Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Unrest from parades, protests and bomb scares is bad news for Belfast's standing abroad

'Negative publicity a turn-off for investors'

Police face down loyalists protesting about a republican internment anniversary parade in August – during the Police and Fire Games in Belfast

Continued unrest in Northern Ireland is deterring investment and hampering the growth of the economy, according to one of the region's most successful entrepreneurs.

Paul Carson invests in high growth start-ups and said recent bomb scares and flag protests has made the job of persuading companies from outside Northern Ireland to establish businesses here much more difficult.

"People in London don't understand that business isn't affected by the unrest but it affects the emotion and the sentiment of people who are considering bringing businesses here," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "They see the headlines and if they can get peace in London, Oxford or another city then they'll go there."

Mr Carson praised the work of investment agency Invest NI in attracting high growth start-ups to Northern Ireland but said they were hamstrung when it comes to negating the effects of protest or unrest.

"The bottom line is (Enterprise Minister) Arlene Foster has created such an attractive environment to bring high growth start-ups to Northern Ireland but all of that good work is lost in headlines which show bomb alerts and violence on the streets," he said.

"The recklessness of these people carrying out these activities – and it's across the board – is endangering the economic opportunities here."

Mr Carson speaks from experience.

He has brought four high growth companies, some from outside Northern Ireland, to Holywood, Co Down and created 20 jobs since May this year.

He is also founder and chairman of Strategic Planning, a public relations and affairs company, chairman of Straight Communications, a telecoms business, a founder and director of shellfish company Still Waters Fishing and previously founded renewable power company Simple Power.

Mr Carson's comments come only a matter of weeks after the Northern Ireland Investment Conference which brought scores of potential and current inward investors from around the world to Belfast in a week when the paramilitary murders of two men occurred.

The conference was hailed a success, although it'll be some time before any investment commitments prompted as a result of the event are known.

Nevertheless, the ongoing disruption is leaving the likes of Mr Carson, who tweeted his dismay yesterday, with a harder job when it comes to persuading high growth companies to come here.

"It's just so frustrating", Mr Carson added.

20

The number of jobs created by Paul Carson in Holywood this year