Top 100: A marker of our resilient business community
Ayear ago, as we reflected on the success of those firms that had been named in the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies, it was against the backdrop of wider economic and political unpredictability.
Chief among concerns highlighted at the time was the lack of clarity over Brexit, coupled with an absence of a fully functioning devolved government at Stormont.
Twelve months on, those matters still loom large. The timetable for the UK’S departure from the European Union has been extended to October, while the length of time Northern Ireland has been without an Executive now approaches 900 days.
However, just as it did last year, the latest edition of the Top 100 guide does not tell the story of an economy struggling to cope under
a cloud of uncertainty but of a business community that continues to thrive despite the many challenges it faces.
The guide features organisations both well-known and less so, representing a wide spectrum of sectors and every region of Northern Ireland.
In amongst a strong representation of indigenous firms, many of which have become household names outside the province, are global brands that have established local operations, a clear indication that the region remains an attractive proposition internationally as a place to start and grow businesses.
There are plenty of positive signs to be found in wider statistical analysis also.
The most recently available Northern Ireland economic output statistics, for example, show that services output during the final quarter of 2018 was at its highest level in a decade, having recorded annual growth every quarter since the end of 2014.
The data, published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), also revealed that the level of production sector output had increased by 2.4% over the year.
The government’s Labour Force Survey meanwhile reported that unemployment levels in Northern Ireland had reached an historic low in the three months to the end of March.
It said the rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland, at 2.9%, was lower than that of the UK as a whole and significantly better than those reported in the Republic of Ireland and the European Union.
There is no doubt that significant challenges lie ahead. Companies may have been given more time to prepare for Brexit but the nature of the UK’S departure, with or without a deal, remains unclear and we will not know the shape of our future trading relationship with the EU for some time.
However, those organisations included in the Top 100 Companies have proved their capabilities to adapt and flourish regardless of outside influence and I have no doubt, they will continue to do so.
On behalf of Arthur Cox, I congratulate all those named among our Top 100 and wish them every future success.