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Better days are ahead

Mar 26, 2021
One of the few silver linings of this pandemic, according to Dawn McLaughlin, is the evolution of leaner businesses that are better positioned to serve their customers. 

I am always amazed at the resilience and determination of our business community. History has demonstrated our resolve over the years with businesses trading through all types of adversity. At every turn, we dusted ourselves down and got straight back to serving our customers and community. No matter what we faced, and there were some desperate times, we worked through them. It took a pandemic to stop us in our tracks.

It therefore came as no surprise when a recent survey carried out by the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce revealed that 72% of members were optimistic about the future. Despite being in lockdown and having no clarity on the lifting of restrictions, the Chamber’s members see better days ahead. This was further brought to the fore at my recent President’s Lunch when the level of positivity was palpable. While the short-term challenges were acknowledged, the opportunities in healthtech and fintech beginning to bear fruit were noted together with the creation of spinouts from the collaboration between local health and educational establishments.

So, what is there to look forward to? And how do we get out of the current situation? It is that entrepreneurial spirit that keeps shining through. Avoid the temptation to wallow in the problem; instead, look for the solution. And we have plenty to build on. There is pent-up demand in the market, surplus funds held by some, and financial assistance in the pipeline to kick-start the high street.

For innovative and ambitious businesses, alternative and export-led markets are waiting to be explored. Invest NI is ready and willing to assist businesses with creative ideas and export potential. Traders who survive the pandemic must be poised to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

During the lockdown, owner-managers took a hard look at their business and made necessary changes. The fat has been shed and processes refined. We have leaner businesses that are better positioned to serve their customers in a more streamlined and efficient manner.

When we look to the northwest, we see tremendous opportunity for the years ahead. Based on four pillars that span everything from tourism and digital innovation to employability and health and wellbeing, the City Deal will help create a thriving and prosperous region with equality of opportunity for all. It will also further cement the northwest as a top area in the United Kingdom and Ireland to set up a business, acting as a regional hub of enterprise and entrepreneurship that fosters innovation and development.

All this, coupled with existing strengths like the high quality of life and low cost of living, makes the northwest more attractive than ever to foreign investors, start-up companies, entrepreneurs, students, and families looking to relocate. The recent government funding to support the vital air route between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted also helps keep our region connected to crucial business hubs across these islands. This, together with the A5/A6 upgrade, are vital factors for companies looking to invest in the northwest.

Now is the time to look ahead to the future with confidence – a future that looks increasingly bright.

Dawn McLaughlin is Founder of Dawn McLaughlin & Co. Chartered Accountants 
and President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.