Dawn McLaughlin, President, Derry Chamber
Three weeks ago, the Chamber held its first major in-person event in over 18 months. The President’s Annual Dinner is our flagship event each year, bringing over 200 of our colleagues, friends, and partners from across the island together to celebrate the North West business community and recognise the stellar work being done by local companies. I want to again thank everyone who attended, our sponsors, elected representatives, and other dignitaries who joined us at the Everglades Hotel and made the night so special.
As we all dusted off our finery after being stuck in the wardrobe for so long, and squeezed back into dresses and tuxes, there was a sense of relief and excitement as we got back to networking and meeting once again. Despite the challenges we’ve all faced over the past year or so, and the collective issues which still lay before us, there was a palpable optimism and positivity for the road ahead. And it was fantastic to get back out there, meeting people once again.
Next week, the Chamber is beginning the first in a series of travelling roadshows as we beat the drum for the North West as a leading location to work, live, raise a family, and invest. Succeed North West – led by the Chamber with support from key regional partners including Ulster University, North West Regional College, Western Health and Social Care Trust, Invest NI, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Allstate NI, and FinTrU – is an outreach initiative where we will fly the flag for our region and hope to engage the sizeable Derry diaspora spread across the island and beyond. Investment opportunities are there for the North West and it’s up to us to effectively sell our strengths and grasp the opportunities before us.
Derry leaders are spread across Northern Ireland, the UK, Ireland and further afield in a variety of sectors and businesses. Next Wednesday, we’ll bring together around 100 leading Northern Irish business leaders, many of whom have connections to Derry, at the Merchant Hotel, Belfast, and clearly lay out what our region can offer to businesses looking to invest or expand beyond Belfast.
We’re the fourth largest city on the island. We’ve a young population of over 350,000 in the wider city region, 35% of which is aged 25 or younger. With leading educational institutions providing the skills our workforce needs for the future, our talent pipeline is skilled and diverse. Our infrastructure continues to improve all the time, with the City of Derry Airport providing access to economic markets and hubs across the UK and Ireland, while the completion of the A6 next spring is expected to reduce journey times to Belfast to around an hour.
The attraction for businesses is clear. Our track record in attracting FDI from across the globe is strong and stretches back to the likes of Dupont in the 1960s. Strong partnerships between government, local authorities, the Chamber, academia, and other key partners drive forward success and ensure that businesses operate in the most supportive and hospitable environment possible.
As we come out of the pandemic, innovative ideas and taking brave steps will be vital for recovery. Going directly to businesses, laying out our strengths and unique assets, is one important way of attracting investment, creating jobs, and clearly communicating why the North West is a leading location on the island of Ireland to do business.