Belfast Telegraph

World achiever

By Rosie Cowan

THE stars came from the East at this year's World Young Business Achiever

competition, with four of the six winners from Pacific rim countries.

competition, with four of the six winners from Pacific rim countries.

Secretary of State, Sir Patrick Mayhew, presented the trophies at a gala dinner in the Europa Hotel, where guests included cabinet minister Brian Mawhinney; civil service head, Sir David Fell; Queen's vice chancellor, Sir Gordon Beveridge, and IDB chairman, John McGuckian. Guest speaker was polar explorer, Robert Swan.

The top award went to Korean precision tool manufacturer, Ho- Keun Song, who is setting up an £8.5m IDB-assisted factory, creating 230 jobs in west Belfast.

Mr Song, who employs 380 people at two plants outside Seoul, says he is impressed with the quality and cheapness of labour here, as well as corporate rents and government aid.

"There is a shortage of workers in Korea and local government can be quite aggressive, which is a barrier to enterprise."

Mr Song, who has turned over $11bn since he started and expects to turn over $16.5m this year, exports to Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and the United States.

"There were a lot of successful people in the competition and I really didn't expect to win," he says.

"I think the commpany has done well because I try to keep my promises to customers."

Mr Song beat 20 other contestants from around the world, 18 of which made the trip to the province for Sunday night's final.

Winner of the award for innovative excellence was Japanese software retailer, Kei Suzuki, who clocked up sales of more than $800m last year.

New projects include designing technology for use in navigation systems to render emergency services more efficient, and Mr Suzuki's dream is to turn his stores into the 'Disneyland of computer stores.'He started his business 16 years ago at the age of 20, and thinks it has great growth potential because it is offering something different.

"This is my first visit to Northern Ireland and before I came I had quite a negative impression," he admits.

"But when I met people and saw the city and the countryside I realised the place has great potential."

Taiwanese entrant, Rick Lei, took the prize for outstanding achievement, with his firm, Acer Computers, which he has pushed into the top three global personal computers producers.

Zhou Houijan, of China, clinched the endeavour award for his efforts as general manager of Hisence Electric Corporation, which has achieved growth rates of between 164% and 298% under his management.

The only two prize-winners from outside the Asia Pacific area hail from New Zealand and the United States.

New Zealander, Philip Routhan, started work as a plumber at 15, bought out his company at 18, and later turned it around from near- bankruptcy to success.

Todd Ruelle, of the US, won the environmental award for his natural gas-powered Washington DC- based taxi service. He battled against bureaucrats and clients now include the White House, and many other government agencies and private companies.

The Young Business Achiever competition is the brainchild of public relations guru, Robin Dunseath. The sponsors include the Belfast Telegraph, the Industrial Development Board, British Telecom NI, the Worldcom Group and Guinness.


From Belfast Telegraph