'Family firms remain backbone of our economy' says Harbinson Mulholland partner

Darren McDowell (left) from Harbinson Mulholland with Hastings Hotels Group directors Aileen Martin and Howard Hastings. Photo: Brian Morrison

FAMILY-run businesses currently contribute more than 40 per cent of Northern Ireland's wealth, are responsible for 305,000 jobs and remain the backbone of the economy, a business forum in Belfast has heard.

Business advisory firm Harbinson Mulholland used National Family Business to champion the sector, put family firms on the map and help to dispel the myths surrounding the family business sector.

Last year Harbinson Mulholland established the NI Family Business Forum to give family businesses the opportunity to connect, exchange ideas and learn from each other in a sociable and private setting.

It launched its 2018/19 programme of events at a business breakfast yesterday in the Observatory at Belfast's Grand Central Hotel, itself family-owned by the Hastings Group.

November sees the first Forum road trip when 30 guests will visit the family-run Beaufort Interiors business in Moira, while in March Petra Wolsey, marketing director of the Beannchor Group, owners of the Merchant Hotel, will deliver a keynote address at a major family business seminar.

Darren McDowell, partner at Harbinson Mulholland and chairman of the NI Family Business Forum, says: "Businesses owned and run by families tend to show more resilience than others, employ large numbers of people and contribute hugely to the financial wellbeing of our communities, and we are consciously setting an optimistic tone for our forum programme in the next year.

"The ongoing lack of a devolved government and local political leadership is a huge disadvantage, especially with the pivotal event of Brexit on the horizon.

"But I have no doubt that family businesses will provide the platform for future stability and growth, and Harbinson Mulholland remains committed to coming alongside the family business sector to offer our support."

Last year an annual top 100 Northern Ireland businesses list compiled Ulster University Business School on behalf of Harbinson Mulholland showed that 71 were family-owned, and in the UK as a whole, family firms contributed £519 billion, to the economy - equal to 25 per cent of GDP.

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