Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Believe the hype, we're the place to be for IT

The show will go on. That's certainly the message to the world's business community following news US company Oxford Consulting is to set up a European base in Belfast and create 33 well-paid jobs.

Under normal circumstances the announcement would have been impressive enough but, when pictures of rioting in Northern Ireland are being beamed around the world, its significance can't be overlooked.

Obviously the Ohio company's decision to come here has probably been agreed for some time, maybe before the rioting began, but speaking to the company's founder there certainly seems to be no regrets and even a determination to talk the issue down.

That's pretty much the opinion of most of the companies already operating here under overseas ownership who report, on these pages, that the situation hasn't gone over the heads of their parent companies but isn't causing them to panic.

But away from the current political situation which has emerged as a fly in the ointment of the Northern Ireland economy's recovery, the investment by Oxford Consulting is a big boost, both in terms of salaries and in terms of confidence for the IT workforce here.

For the former the rewards top £1.4m annually in total and although we don't know exactly how much the jobs will pay, a rough calculation puts the average salary at £42,000 a year.

You don't need me to tell you that such a figure is well above the average pay in the private sector and it will come as a huge boost to the economy at a time when such jobs are hard to come by.

When it comes to the latter, the latest jobs pat-on-the-back for the IT sector shows that we really are becoming regarded as a hub for the sector around the world.

IT firms, both locally and overseas owned, have been quietly spreading the word around the globe that Northern Ireland is an ideal place to set up a European base and are bringing their peers, competition, suppliers and customers to these shores.

That the founder of Oxford Consulting chose to mention that she was impressed with the calibre of graduate from our universities is particularly heart warming and proves we're producing the right type of skilled employee to meet the demand.

But most impressive of all is the fact the Belfast office will be the firm's first outside the US.

That is putting a lot of faith in us as an economy.

We now need to stop throwing up potential obstacles to economic growth and get on with living up to the hype.