Richard Donnan: Entrepreneurial spirit shines through to leave me beaming with pride after Balmoral Show
It's difficult to explain how it feels to be proud of a sector - it's much easier to show it. As I welcomed customers, colleagues, visitors and friends to this year's Balmoral Show during May, I was struck by how rewarding it felt to be showing such a hive of activity as the largest agricultural show in these parts got under way.
In my view, the show is unmatched as a fantastic example of the passion and commitment that local people give to the agri-food sector, from farmers and entrepreneurs to our largest exporters and major manufacturing businesses.
This year, it was especially important to take stock of the valuable roles farming and food play in our economy as the show celebrated its 150th year.
Trade and livestock exhibitors alike took time to reflect on the many achievements and triumphs of the industry and how it has grown and developed over the years.
But it is also an important time to look ahead. The nature of this industry means that change is always around the corner, necessitating innovation and invention for those involved with agri-food. We have seen countless examples of ingenuity over the years and I know from Ulster Bank customers that improvement continues to happen day-and-daily, right across the entire industry.
Looking back over the four days at Balmoral Show, one of the things I took great pride in was the number of Ulster Bank customers represented - be they large food manufacturers, SMEs, start-up businesses or farmers - who are there to showcase their products, produce, equipment and animals.
Balmoral Show clearly matters to them and is a perfect opportunity to meet with existing and potential customers, engage with stakeholders and stay up-to-date with trends sweeping across the wider industry.
We recognise the show's importance and value to our customers and, while marking our 10th year as principal sponsor, work hard to ensure it remains a profitable experience for them. This is why we provided free stalls in our marquee to a selection of micro businesses who were either business customers or based in Ulster Bank's Entrepreneur Accelerator. Two such companies were A Blissful Blend and Bronze Leaf, both self-innovated from a desire to create products bespoke to individual circumstances and both a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit we foster in our accelerator.
Indeed, there are many shared values between our entrepreneurs and the farmers and industry leaders I had the pleasure of meeting at the show. The two groups are at the heart of local communities, both value history, heritage and fair dealing, but are constantly horizon-scanning for the next big opportunity and laying the foundations for a strong and vibrant economy in the future.
We're now in June and the tents have all come down, rosettes hang proudly in barns above champion livestock and for now, normality has been restored to Balmoral Park, but the successes and fond memories of the 150th Balmoral Show will live on for many years to come.