‘My par­ents in­stilled a strong work ethic in me’

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - The Big Interview - By john lav­ery, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor, Webba dvi­sory John Lav­ery is a for­mer man­ager of eco­nomic in­tel­li­gence and plan­ning with Auck­land Tourism Events and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment (ATEED). In next week’s Econ­omy Watch, we hear from Danske Bank econ­o­mist Conor L

Q What’s the best piece of busi­ness (or life) ad­vice you’ve ever been given? AMY fa­ther-in-law, who was a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man and al­ways a great sup­port through­out my ca­reer, al­ways en­cour­aged me to be a man of my word. Qwhat piece of ad­vice would you pass on to some­one start­ing out in busi­ness? A de­velop a client-fo­cused ap­proach and em­ploy tal­ented peo­ple.

Q What was your best busi­ness de­ci­sion? A ac­cept­ing the in­vi­ta­tion to be­come a di­rec­tor of Do­ran Con­sult­ing.

Q IF you weren’t do­ing this job, what would be your other ca­reer?

A I find this dif­fi­cult to an­swer be­cause I can’t imag­ine do­ing any­thing other than civil en­gi­neer­ing.

Q What was your last hol­i­day? Where are you go­ing next?

A I was in Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore re­cently, and my next trip will be to New Eng­land in the US.

Q What are your hob­bies/ in­ter­ests?

A In ad­di­tion to the work I do in my church, I en­joy travel, run­ning and watch­ing Arse­nal with my son, Michael.

Q what is your favourite sport and team?

A I en­joy foot­ball and rugby. I am a long suf­fer­ing Arse­nal fan and try to get across to the Emi­rates a few times each sea­son. I also en­joy Fri­day night at the Kingspan.

Q And have you ever played any sports?

A I played rugby at school, although I al­ways pre­ferred foot­ball.

Q IF you en­joy read­ing, can you rec­om­mend a book?

A The last two books I read for re­lax­ation were Do­min­ion by CJ San­som and Camino Is­land by John Gr­isham, both of which I en­joyed.

Q how would you de­scribe your early life?

A I come from a typ­i­cal Belfast work­ing class fam­ily. My fa­ther was a ship­yard worker. My par­ents had a strong work ethic, which they in­stilled in me. This has been a great as­set to me.

Q Have you any eco­nomic pre­dic­tions?

A AS a civil en­gi­neer, I leave such pre­dic­tions to the econ­o­mists.

Q How would you as­sess your time in busi­ness with your com­pany?

A I joined im­me­di­ately af­ter grad­u­at­ing and this year cel­e­brated 30 years with the com­pany. I have had the plea­sure of work­ing with many tal­ented and com­mit­ted peo­ple. It has also been great fun and a priv­i­lege to play a part in the suc­cess of Do­ran Con­sult­ing. It is an hon­our to now take over as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and lead an in­cred­i­bly tal­ented team.

Q How do you sum up work­ing in the sec­tor?

A Civil en­gi­neer­ing is a de­mand­ing and chal­leng­ing pro­fes­sion but de­liv­ers in­cred­i­ble job sat­is­fac­tion. It has pro­vided me with a very re­ward­ing ca­reer and I rec­om­mend it to young peo­ple with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

Ihad the plea­sure of a fly­ing visit home to Belfast last month and as is stan­dard on trips home from my soon-to-be for­mer base in New Zealand, I packed a lot in and saw a lot of the city. I was struck by the vi­brancy around town. De­spite many down­side risks, such as the Stor­mont sit­u­a­tion and un­cer­tainty over Brexit, moods were pos­i­tive and many seemed to have a spring in their step. A fairly typ­i­cal Belfast re­silience, the longevity of which never ceases to amaze me.

The city cen­tre it­self is thriv­ing. Phys­i­cal in­vest­ment, in both com­mer­cial prop­erty and in­fra­struc­ture, is clear for all to see. Of­fices that lay va­cant dur­ing and post the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 2008 are now leased and new com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ments are un­der­way or planned.

Ti­tanic Quar­ter is start­ing to look like the ‘artists im­pres­sions’ of the early 2000s, with ma­jor em­ploy­ers such as Cit­i­group and Ti­tanic Belfast ma­jor an­chors.

One piece of news which struck me when home was the in­com­ing Lord Mayor Nuala Mcal­lis­ter’s theme of ‘global Belfast’, build­ing on the City Coun­cil’s aim to make Belfast an ‘open, in­clu­sive and wel­com­ing place to live and do busi­ness in — a city that is at­trac­tive to vis­i­tors and in­vestors alike’.

This has since been sup­ported by the launch of a new city brand, which — love it or hate it — is a key tool for cities in mak­ing their global pres­ence known.

This is some­thing which is all too fa­mil­iar to me hav­ing spent the last four years work­ing for Auck­land’s Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Pro­mo­tional agency (ATEED), which is aim­ing to do just the same for Auck­land.

Auck­land is al­ready de­scribed as New Zealand’s global city. It is its most pop­u­lous city, with over 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple, the com­mer­cial hub, home to a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional air­port and port, and a di­verse pop­u­la­tion with over 200 eth­nic­i­ties.

Whilst it op­er­ates on a global level, with em­bed­ded in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions and a clear fo­cus on the Asia-pa­cific re­gion, it is seek­ing, with ATEED a key ac­tor, to fur­ther de­velop and lever­age in­ter­na­tional link­ages to en­able trade, in­vest­ment and vis­i­ta­tion.

In the con­text of my work with ATEED in Auck­land, I be­gan to think how well Belfast as a city is placed, with its much smaller rel­a­tive pop­u­la­tion and sta­tus, when com­pared to Auck­land and other global cities, to achieve the city’s global am­bi­tions.

To set the con­text it is nec­es­sary to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of cities and their role in the world to­day.

The Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, a lead­ing US think tank, has led a pro­gramme of re­search around the role of cities and metropoli­tan ar­eas in to­day’s world.

They high­light that “the clas­sic no­tion of a global city” has been up­ended and that the global econ­omy is no longer “driven by a se­lect few ma­jor fi­nan­cial cen­tres like New York, Lon­don, and Tokyo”.

To­day, in­stead, mem­bers of a vast and com­plex “net­work of cities par­tic­i­pate in in­ter­na­tional flows of goods, ser­vices, peo­ple, cap­i­tal, and ideas, and thus make dis­tinc­tive con­tri­bu­tions to global growth and op­por­tu­nity”.

Belfast’s role as the civic and com­mer­cial cap­i­tal of North­ern Ire­land and the se­cond largest city on the is­land of Ire­land, give it a po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness promi­nence.

A strong in­dus­trial past, vi­brant ser­vices sec­tor and vis­i­tor econ­omy, skilled labour force, strong aca­demic and re­search in­sti­tu­tions and a track record of at­tract­ing for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment (FDI), mean it has the at­tributes re­quired to be a mem­ber of this global net­work of cities.

This com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors mean that Belfast is well placed to be the ‘chal­lenger’ and de­velop to­wards be­ing a ‘global city’.

The city’s global am­bi­tion, whilst bold and as­pi­ra­tional, is re­fresh­ing and just what Belfast needs in a dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

The Lord Mayor gets this — across other global cities the role of may­ors as cat­alytic lead­ers, set­ting a vi­sion and lead­ing the city to­wards that, are prov­ing to be a key fac­tor.

First im­pres­sions, from afar at least, would sug­gest she is up for the chal­lenge and en­er­gised for the task.

❝ Belfast’s role as the civic and com­mer­cial cap­i­tal of NI gives it a busi­ness promi­nence

❝ The Lord Mayor’s theme is to make the city an open, in­clu­sive and wel­com­ing place to live

Thurs­day sees North­ern Ire­land Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion’s (NILGA) an­nual con­fer­ence and awards to re­view, show­case and cel­e­brate all that is pos­i­tive about coun­cils in North­ern Ire­land.

We’ll also not shy away from de­bat­ing the chal­lenges that cur­rently ex­ist. The event comes at a cru­cial time. Other re­gions in the UK are pro­gress­ing ahead with plans to ad­dress forth­com­ing un­cer­tainty.

It is un­ac­cept­able that we are run­ning so far be­hind due to our own po­lit­i­cal bar­ri­ers. Greater fo­cus must be placed on one of the in­sti­tu­tions that can pro­vide the so­lu­tion — namely, lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

The 11 coun­cils in North­ern Ire­land are dy­namic hubs of pub­lic ser­vice de­liv­ery and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Coun­cils are now much more than ad­min­is­tra­tors of bins, births and buri­als.

Col­lec­tively, they spend around £1bn an­nu­ally in our econ­omy with am­bi­tions to do a great deal more. Sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment has a truly trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect on peo­ple and places.

It is our coun­cils who are best po­si­tioned to un­der­stand cur­rent need and fu­ture re­quire­ments in their spe­cific ar­eas. Work­ing col­lec­tively, through NILGA, they sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­ute to the pros­per­ity of North­ern Ire­land.

All coun­cils are driv­ing for­ward — par­tic­u­larly with ma­jor so­cial, busi­ness and gov­ern­ment part­ners in the con­text of their com­mu­nity and in­vest­ment plans.

It is clear to see, that within all 11 coun­cils, there is fer­vent pro­fes­sional am­bi­tion to at­tract busi­ness from be­yond North­ern Ire­land.

As the po­lit­i­cal im­passe con­tin­ues, the need for lo­cal coun­cils to play a big­ger role in in­vest­ment and in­fra­struc­ture is grow­ing.

The sit­u­a­tion in Stor­mont means that coun­cils are cor­ner­stones of the econ­omy and good gov­er­nance. There is de­ter­mi­na­tion amongst the coun­cils to be part of a new, strength­ened econ­omy and gov­ern­ment for North­ern Ire­land.

They can play an en­hanced role in civic rep­re­sen­ta­tion and pub­lic ser­vice de­liv­ery — what- ever the lo­cal is­sue — just like coun­cils else­where. Their longterm plan­ning and new pow­ers en­able them to meet lo­cal needs but have global reach — the ti­tle of this year’s con­fer­ence.

Much more needs to be done to give coun­cils the en­vi­ron­ment to do more, po­lit­i­cally, legally, fis­cally. It’s lu­di­crous that we still do not have the power of re­gen­er­a­tion as with­out it am­bi­tious in­fra­struc­ture plans are held up. In­vestors are go­ing else­where.

Coun­cils have a vi­tal role in de­vel­op­ing spa­ces and places that at­tract en­trepreneurs with busi­ness ideas which cre­ate jobs and taxes.

We don’t want to take power away; we want to have the same pow­ers as neigh­bour­ing re­gions so we don’t suf­fer from con­tin­ued com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage.

Coun­cils are in­creas­ingly at the fore­front of in­vest­ment and en­ter­prise in North­ern Ire­land.

With the in­creased ser­vices, func­tions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the 11 coun­cils, sig­nif­i­cant global op­por­tu­ni­ties are now avail­able to trans­form the lo­cal gov­ern­ment sec­tor and en­able the pri­vate sec­tor and so­cial econ­omy.

This con­fer­ence is a key event in the busi­ness cal­en­dar with around 150 elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, offi- cials, del­e­gates and busi­ness lead­ers at­tend­ing to share knowl­edge, skills and ideas.

New lo­cal gov­ern­ment strength­ens democ­racy and cre­ates sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties.

It is time for this to be more em­phat­i­cally recog­nised.

❝ Much more needs to be done to give coun­cils the en­vi­ron­ment to do more, po­lit­i­cally, legally, fis­cally

Ian is an Arse­nal fan and a reg­u­lar at the Emi­rates sta­dium

Auck­land is de­scribed as New Zealand’s global city

Coun­cils can help to im­prove the econ­omy if given the op­por­tu­nity

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