Summer in the city
AS this year’s long, hot July continues and we approach the annual political Summer break, nowhere is the temperature hotter and the atmosphere more highly charged than at Westminster.
On the streets public confidence in the current UK government to deliver the Brexit many anticipated is waning and certainty regarding the format that the process will ultimately take is in extremely short supply. To coin a phrase; “the only certainty right now seems to be uncertainty” and that is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.
It can’t be ignored that the high street is undergoing a re-shaping with demand reported to be at its lowest level for over six years and the recent decrease in the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index across Q1 2018 has been a direct result of a fall in construction sector output.
However, recent figures show that the commercial property sector in Belfast has experienced the highest half-year office market take-up levels on record, surpassing the annual total for the last decade.
Some might argue, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the current wrangling between Westminster and Brussels, and the bumps along the way they we’ll inevitably encounter, that Northern Ireland’s unique geographical position and comparatively low cost base is making the province increasingly attractive for companies wanting to maintain a foot in both the UK and European Union, particularly those in legal and professional services, fintech and the emerging technologies sectors.
While some would argue it’s the combination of location and cost that has global businesses looking at Northern Ireland, if you delve deeper and consider the real draw of our secret sauce; talent. In a modern, knowledge-driven economy, talent is key to growth for business and talent is something that Northern Ireland has in spades. It is a key driver that is bringing forward looking companies to our shores.
In June, finance firm FinTrU announced it was creating 605 jobs in Northern Ireland with £38m expansion in the next five years across Belfast and Derry. This was hot off the heels of EY’s announcement that the consultancy intends to create 95 jobs at its Belfast operation as part a 520-job expansion across its seven offices in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
It seems, for now, that amongst the present geopolitical uncertainty and technological disruption there are both challenges and opportunities for businesses and those who intend to exploit them are increasingly viewing Northern Ireland as the right location to do it from.
:: Declan Flynn is managing director of Belfast-based commercial property agency Lisney, which works on behalf of many of Northern Ireland's most significant investors and developers as well as major retailers and businesses.