Top 100: A marker of our re­silient busi­ness com­mu­nity

Belfast Telegraph - Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies - - FOREWORD -

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.

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