‘Cautious sense of optimism’

THERE is “a sense of cautious optimism” emerging for companies in Northern Ireland, a business leader insisted last night.

“Despite the prevailing caution, the business community is looking forward to bigger and better times ahead,” NI Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann McGregor told a gala business dinner in the iconic Titanic Belfast.

In the first major business function at the spectacular £97 million venue, she told an 800-strong audience: “This event in a world-class venue sold out within a matter of days of tickets going on sale as companies seize the opportunity to celebrate.”

Guests at the event, marking the Chamber’s 230th anniversary, included Secretary of State Owen Paterson, a number of Stormont ministers, Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile. Keynote speaker was Ireland rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll.

Chamber president Francis Martin said: “We continue to be guided by the same objectives set when the chamber was established in 1782.

“Our founding fathers and past presidents, which reads like a who’s-who of history, would surely be impressed by the breadth and extent of the chamber’s work in representing the interests of business here to policymakers and in creating opportunities for members to prosper at home, nationally and in international markets.”

He said the chamber’s overall objective for 2012 and beyond is to provide an effective and flexible support structure for a more dynamic private sector and to create a more vibrant, robust and high-growth economy that will ensure quality and reward employment.

Two new initiatives unveiled last night are an annual Entrepreneurial Spirit Award in partnership with the Ulster Business School and a Postgraduate Bursary Award for University of Ulster students, to the value of £3,500.

Mr Martin’s own firm BDO is to become the Northern Ireland chamber’s partner, providing a range of services including a new business accelerator programme.

Source: irishnews.com