Our economy in Northern Ireland has certainly taken a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, as indeed have economies elsewhere. There is a lot of gloom on the economic front, especially with retail jobs and the hospitality sector.
There has not been a lot of good news as regards the economy and employment, but some local businesses are looking ahead and planning for the future.
Over the last few days, I have been struck by two encouraging announcements and both are in relation to food production. Clandeboye Estate in Co Down, which already produces yoghurt, is to invest £2m in a new factory and new machinery which will increase both production and sales to international markets.
The company has been producing artisan yoghurt for the past 12 years and its products are stocked by many of the major food retailers across Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Irish Republic. Now, they want to build on that success and expand.
The investment will enable the company to quadruple its production capacity to 80 tonnes of yoghurt per week and, as a result, it will be able to double its workforce, with 13 new jobs across production and management.
Invest Northern Ireland has supported Clandeboye Estate in this venture, as indeed it has supported them in the past, and both the company and Invest NI deserve credit, both for what has been achieved and for the entrepreneurial spirit and that wants to take this business up to the next level.
Meanwhile, in Co Antrim, the Ashers Baking Company has purchased a site at Ballyearl from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
The company will be retaining its current premises at Ballyearl, but is planning to construct a state-of-the-art production facility at the former council depot.
This will enable Ashers to increase production and target markets in Great Britain and the Irish Republic.
The general manager, Daniel McArthur, said: "It is our plan to expand and create further jobs as part of the new site. We hope to be operational at the new site by autumn 2021."
There is a place for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Northern Ireland and the introduction of multinational companies has produced much-needed employment. But FDI is only part of the picture and it has its limitations.
Too often in the past, we have seen companies come to Northern Ireland, stay a few years and then leave.
Call centres, for example, can easily move their business abroad and when decisions about the future of a multinational business are being made in New York, or California, Northern Ireland may be low on their list of priority locations.
Locally owned companies are more likely to be durable, because of the local ownership. The people who make the decisions live here and have probably always lived here. They work here, they have invested here and their family roots are here.
These will probably be small, or medium-sized, companies and the jobs may be numbered in the tens rather than the hundreds, but because of their rootedness the owners are much less likely to move their production out of Northern Ireland.
If we are to build those small and medium businesses on the scale we require, then Ulster needs to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs and encourage current entrepreneurs to do even more.
Companies such as Clandeboye Estate and Ashers Bakery show what can be accomplished by hard work and steady growth and they should be celebrated as examples for others.
A century ago, Belfast was an industrial powerhouse and many of those industries were started by local entrepreneurs who had the passion and dedication to build a business.
Let's not forget their example and let's make them an example for the future.
Let's celebrate in our schools, our cultural institutions and in the media those entrepreneurs who built modern Ulster.
It's a very different world today, but there are things that Northern Ireland can do extremely well and one of these is food production, especially artisan foods and high-quality foods.
So, let's celebrate the successes in that sector, encourage others to emulate their entrepreneurial spirit and encourage those small and medium businesses to look to wider markets, across the British Isles and, indeed, around the world.