Belfast Telegraph

Ex-DUP minister Hamilton 'thrilled' to start job at Belfast Chamber

Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton with president Rajesh Rana
Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton with president Rajesh Rana
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Former DUP Stormont minister Simon Hamilton has said he will work to help the city centre fulfil its potential as he takes up a new role as chief executive of Belfast Chamber.

The one-time Strangford MLA served as Economy Minister for just under a year before the collapse of the Assembly in 2017.

He also served as Health Minister for a year and had a two-year tenure as Finance Minister, but he announced he was stepping down from politics in June to take up the newly-created role of chief executive of Belfast Chamber. The post was advertised with a salary of £50,000 to £60,000.

The chamber said that Mr Hamilton is now tasked with growing the organisation's membership and making sure it supports and promotes businesses across the city.

Last year the organisation was thrust into the spotlight after a devastating fire at Primark in Bank Buildings caused major problems for retail trade in the city centre - with a 60% drop in footfall reported in October last year.

The city centre has been staging a tentative recovery as it marked the first anniversary of the fire two weeks ago.

Mr Hamilton said he was "thrilled" to take on the new role.

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"We have rapidly growing technology, tourism and professional services sectors which are helping to make Belfast stand out globally as a great place to live, work, visit and invest in. There is also an increasing focus on the need to revitalise central Belfast," he said.

"A vibrant city centre is essential to the future success of our city and my priority will be to work closely with business, Belfast City Council and government to help deliver the investment we need to help our city fulfil the huge potential we know it has.

"Belfast is the beating heart of the economy of Northern Ireland and we are committed to strengthening that in any way we can.

"Belfast Chamber is passionate and ambitious about Belfast. I look forward to working with our growing number of members and our range of partners to bring continued success to our city."

Rajesh Rana, president of Belfast Chamber, said: "I am delighted to welcome Simon to this high-profile role at Belfast Chamber. Simon has the experience and skills we as a chamber need and I look forward to working with him."

In an interview with Belfast Telegraph to mark the anniversary of the fire two weeks ago, Mr Rana identified challenges such as public transport, pedestrianisation, drawing more families in and attracting more people to live in the city centre.

The chamber, which has 400 members from retailers to solicitors, will hold an international conference in February next year.

Belfast Telegraph