Belfast Telegraph

Belfast wins recognition as the most business-friendly small city in world

Belfast’s developing cityscape
Belfast’s developing cityscape
Secretary of State Karen Bradley joins PA Consulting to announce 400 new jobs in September
Hotelier Lawrence Kenwright, who has hit out at Belfast City Council
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Belfast has been named the world's most business-friendly small city by the Financial Times.

Belfast has been ranked number one in a list of 10 small to mid-sized world cities for business friendliness in the report by fDi Intelligence, a service run by the FT.

It's also ranked number two for its overall receptiveness in attracting overseas investment, just behind Zurich in Switzerland.

However, it is only given a middle-ranking in a list of cities with the most economic potential, with locations including Luxembourg and Geneva pulling ahead.

Belfast's high ranking for business friendliness comes just days after Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright issued an open letter to the city council, accusing it of a "system of anti-development", which he claimed was damaging Belfast and Northern Ireland's economy.

Mr Kenwright, who is behind the £15m George Best Hotel and two other proposed hotel projects in the city, said he will cut his planned investment in the city from £80m to £40m.

He claimed his company's relationship with Belfast City Council had "turned into a living nightmare".

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Significantly, the efforts of Invest NI appear to have helped Belfast leapfrog New York and Frankfurt to be recognised for its strategy in attracting foreign direct investment.

The report from fDi Intelligence acknowledged Invest NI's offices in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

Recent successes in attracting inward investment includes global outfit PA Consulting's announcement of 400 new jobs in September, with US-based cybersecurity firm Imperva announcing 220 jobs for the city earlier this month.

In June, Cork native Darragh McCarthy announced an Invest NI-backed plan to create 605 jobs over the next five years in Belfast and Londonderry for his company FinTrU.

Meanwhile, fDi Intelligence added: "The city council employs more than 100 people to promote Belfast as a leading destination for investment, tourism and study, and enjoys sister city networks with Boston, Nashville and Shenyang."

It further describes the £100m of office space developed since 2015, with a further £100m currently under construction.

The FT service also acknowledged recent web innovations, set up to aid development.

"Developers and those applying for planning permission can also access VU.City, a digital 3D model that gives interactive views of Belfast and can inform pre-planning application discussions," it said.

Steve Harper, executive director for international business at Invest NI, said: "Northern Ireland continues to attract global businesses and over the past five years has created more jobs from inward investment than any other region in the UK on a per capita basis.

"This is testament to the skills and talents of our workforce."

Cllr Donal Lyons, who chairs Belfast City Council's City Growth and Regeneration Committee, added: "It reflects our commitment to attracting inward investment as part of our Belfast Agenda goal of growing the economy and also working with Invest NI to complement their work in attracting foreign direct investment to the region."

Belfast Telegraph