Former Invest NI chief Hamilton heads list of new year honours recipients

Former Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton has been awarded a CBE in the new year honours list
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE recently-retired chief executive of Invest NI Alastair Hamilton has received a knighthood in the 2020 new year's honours list in recognition of his services to economic development in Northern Ireland.

He heads a stellar list of business recipients, who are among around 100 people from many walks of life who are recognised by the queen for extraordinary achievements and service.

They include John Healy, managing director of one of the north's largest companies Allstate NI and current president of the NI Chamber of Commerce; Tracy Hamilton, co-founder of agri-food firm Mash Direct; and Roseann Kelly, chief executive of the Women in Business organisation and an Irish News business columnist.

Alastair Hamilton, originally from Coleraine, spent 10 years at the helm of Invest NI, which he joined in 2009 from a senior role in BT.

During his tenure he helped increase levels of inward investment into the region, and in the last year alone, despite a myriad of uncertainties including Brexit, global economic conditions and a cautious business environment, Invest NI contributed to the creation of more than 9,000 jobs - a performance Mr Hamilton described as "exceptional".

One of the biggest projects the agency backed during Mr Hamilton's last year in charge was the £57m investment by Seagate in Derry, the third largest R&D project it has ever supported, and that company now employs 1,400 people at its Springtown facility.

John Healy, who has spent all of his career in financial technology with companies such as JP Morgan and Citi, and has led Allstate for the past four years, said he was "absolutely delighted" at being told he was the recipient of an OBE.

The father of four told the Irish News: "Allstate in particular has made an immense contribution to the Northern Ireland economy, and this honour is a team effort."

Both Tracy Hamilton and Roseann Kelly are awarded MBEs for services respectively to the region's agri-food sector and to economic development.

In the early 2000s Tracy worked tirelessly with her husband Martin to create the Mash Direct brand on the family farm in Comber.

She has since worked to share this knowledge and best practice among start-ups for those aiming to set up small food and drink businesses across the region.

Tracy has also shared her knowledge and best practice in food, farming and sustainability through various bodies which led to her becoming the first woman to sit on the board of the NI Food and Drink Association as well as serving as a visiting professor at the Ulster Business School and as a director of Food NI for 10 years.

“I've been in total disbelief since the envelope arrived through the door four weeks ago. At first I thought it was a thank-you for something we hosted. I didn't mentioned anything even to my husband or sons Jack and Lance until Friday morning.

“I feel so privileged to be recognised this way but feel the award belongs to the whole Northern Irish agri-food sector.”

Roseann Kelly, who has written a regular column in our Business Insight section for a decade, said she was "blown away" at being notified of her MBE.

A marketeer by career, she started as a volunteer for Women in Business when it was launched in 2002, and became its chief executive 11 years ago, growing the membership from just 40 to more than 3,500.

She is a standard-bearer for gender equality in the workplace and works tirelessly to advance women in business.

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