Just under two weeks ago, Trade NI (comprising of Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and Manufacturing NI) led the largest ever business delegation to receptions at the House of Commons and 10 Downing Street.
Local businesses from every sector and every size had the opportunity to engage with the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers and had a very clear and simple message - we need a Brexit deal. Our reception in the House of Commons attracted over 350 guests.
Trade NI is ambitious for Northern Ireland and we have the vision to make it the best place in the UK and Ireland to shop, socialise, locate and to start a business. We want Northern Ireland to be the gateway to the EU and to be a truly global facing region.
We want to work in new ways and beyond traditional boundaries, reaching out to all business organisations, chambers of commerce, trade unions and voluntary sector representation to create a new progressive partnership for change in Northern Ireland, collaborating to support government by bringing solutions to them and not problems, creating a true partnership between civic society and government.
Our three organisations represent most of the businesses that make up private sector jobs in Northern Ireland. A louder voice needs to be heard on their behalf, so they don't suffer in the wake of our local political issues. We want a reboot of economic policy in Northern Ireland, in order to benefit our economy and safeguard our growing business community.
How do we create a Northern Ireland economic powerhouse, like the northern powerhouse that has been built in England? How do we achieve a 5% growth rate instead of bumping along at less than 1%? What do we need to do to make Northern Ireland an eco-system of innovation? Fundamentally, what should our region have achieved economically, socially and politically by 2030? Big questions like these require big answers from our political leaders.
That's why we launched at Westminster a big, bold and ambitious 10-year plan for the future of the Northern Ireland economy, setting out what we need to achieve by 2030.
Our Vision 2030 document sets out ambitious objectives and challenges for rebooted and re-energised economy.
We believe a strong, diverse and sustainable economy is essential to a prosperous society and vibrant communities. Providing an environment where business can thrive and grow is imperative to the strength of our economy. We need to reduce the cost of doing business, embrace the opportunities presented by globalisation, invest in our infrastructure, develop skills, increase our productivity and find innovative new ways of stimulating investment and revitalising our communities.
If we are ever to break the cycle of limited economic growth and realise our true potential, then we a need major investment by the UK government and possibly the Irish government and the EU to make this happen.
To enable a new Stormont administration to tackle all of these challenges a Prosperity Investment Fund should be established as part of a new Good Friday Agreement for the 21st century.
This could be used to fund significant investment necessary to support much-needed major infrastructure projects. Our economic vision for Northern Ireland between now and 2030 will create a sustainable, supportive, global, revitalised economy.
We are undoubtedly in turbulent times but taking a long-term and strategic perspective will help equip us for whatever challenges we encounter. We look forward to contributing to a positive future and this 10-year plan is only the beginning of our contribution.
To download the Vision 2030 document visit www.tradeni.org. See p6 for John Simpson analysis