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Covid could force NI firms to axe plans for new projects

 

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Warning: Michael Graham said companies were revisiting proposals

Warning: Michael Graham said companies were revisiting proposals

Warning: Michael Graham said companies were revisiting proposals

Some businesses are revisiting construction and development plans to see whether they still wish to proceed after the pandemic, but it could be next year until the full impact is felt, the head of Northern Ireland's largest construction firm has said.

Michael Graham, executive chairman at Co Down's Graham Group - Northern Ireland's eighth largest company - said Belfast could see an influx of workers in the medium to long-term as companies and staff up sticks and leave major cities such as London.

Speaking about whether office schemes or similar may be re-examined at after the coronavirus pandemic recedes, he told the Ulster Business Podcast with Bank of Ireland UK: "I think it's not just unique to Northern Ireland. There are clients revisiting plans and just checking that the plans they had in place... that they still want to proceed with (them).

"It will maybe wash out clearer next year because a number of the projects were already at a stage that they progressed and had to go. We haven't just seen it yet."

 

The boss of Graham Group, which posted turnover of £735m in its latest accounts, said the construction sector as a whole was "a bit more fortunate as we had a relatively short period of lockdown compared to other industries".

"I think in general the pandemic really focused minds in the industry. It's been slow to change historically, particularly in regards to technological advances," he added.

"What we are starting to see is change getting forced through at a more radical pace than we would have seen otherwise as we try to get a new approach to try and compensate for loss of product.

"Potentially in Belfast we have opportunity in that we may start to see offices and people moving from big metropolitan places like London and relocating to somewhere they are better able to carry on their work. Belfast is well-positioned for that."

He added that the city was "well-placed for growth in the medium to longer term as companies seek to capitalise on the costs we have here".

As for those sectors facing the greatest hit, he said retail and hospitality were likely to suffer the biggest impact.

Belfast Telegraph