Business

Building on resilience to secure Belfast's global business position

Belfast is a resilient city

RESILIENCE is arguably one of the most important traits in business. The property and construction sectors can certainly testify to that. And it's a characteristic that has only become more important with some of the economic uncertainty of recent weeks.

So being selected by The Rockefeller Foundation as one of the world's 100 Resilient Cities is something that Belfast should certainly take pride in. All the more so as it is the only city in Ireland and one of only five in the UK – the others being London, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester – to have been selected.

The initiative is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

As part of its involvement, Belfast will receive grant funding to deploy a grandly named ‘Commissioner for Resilience' who will lead the “citywide resilience building process”. Belfast will also receive technical support to develop a Resilience Strategy that reflects the city's needs.

The City Council says that applying to be a Resilient City shows Belfast's unique vision for resilience and a long term commitment to building resilience.

They say that applicant cities have demonstrated their willingness to be leaders in urban resilience, sharing learning experiences and becoming a model for other cities across the globe.

This is a noble and ambitious vision. But Belfast has good reason to be confident and aspiring. After all, we have world-class stands in areas such as third level education, cultural achievement, and quality of life.

Belfast is also a popular destination for foreign investors. I led an RICS delegation to New York recently to enable Northern Ireland property professionals and others to engage with potential US investors. There was a clear enthusiasm for this city.

It is increasingly an international professional services hub. Currently some of the world's biggest names in areas such as finance and technology, as well as the legal field, have substantial bases here. And ambition and the right actions will see us elevate that position.

Yes, political and economic circumstances will no doubt present challenges. But we need to focus on the things that we can control. Helping make our city more resilient certainly won't hurt. Enhancing our infrastructure and boosting our housing supply are also crucial. So too ensuring that we have an adequate supply of Grade A office space.

Telecommunications means that physical dislocation does not have to be a barrier. I read an article in the Boston Globe last week about a media designer who was working globally from a laptop computer based in the Gaeltachta area of Donegal. Even in the recent past, he would have needed to be based in Dublin, or London. Not anymore.

So Belfast, a city of undoubted resilience, can indeed be a real model to other cities around the world. And it can continue to build its position as an important destination for global businesses.

:: Ben Collins is director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in Northern Ireland, which represents 4,000 cross-sectoral members comprising of chartered and associate surveyors, trainees and students.

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