Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Entrepreneurial spirit can lift us

There is no doubt that swingeing cuts to public expenditure are on the way in Northern Ireland and, given our dependence on the public sector, they will have a major impact on the economy.

The hope is that the power-sharing Executive will pull together - it looks like a vain hope at the moment - and come up with imaginative ways of easing the pain, and focus on concentrating scarce resources where they will do most good. Ultimately, the long-term aim is to re-balance the economy by attracting new investment and tapping into the traditional entrepreneurial spirit of the province.

One man who could give lessons in that field is Bill Wolsey, whose Beannchor Group has been long at the forefront of the pub and hospitality trade.

He had the vision to open Belfast's first five-star hotel, The Merchant; has now added a £16m extension to it; is behind a chain of pizzerias which may eventually reach 40 in number throughout Ireland, and now plans to open a traditional music centre in the middle of Belfast.

Like all true entrepreneurs, he is willing to gamble that his hopes can take off. He identifies a potential market, and then attempts to serve it with a quality product. While many people see the recession as a time to gather their resources close around them and play safe, others see it as a time of opportunity. Property prices are now rock bottom; some confidence is coming back into the banking sector to finance sound propositions, and labour is cheap. Those are all vital ingredients to the entrepreneur.

Politicians and the state should encourage those willing to invest by ensuring that planning decisions are taken speedily - albeit with due consideration - and that red tape is kept to the minimum.

After all, if they succeed, the businessmen and women become important contributors to the public purse through taxes and rates, and also take people off the unemployment register.

Everyone can become a winner.

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