Collaboration is key to Derry’s economic growth

Londonderry ChamberStrong collaboration is fuelling Derry’s economic growth and will play a critical role in the future prosperity of the North West region, according to Jennifer McKeever, President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

The benefit of key stakeholders working closely together was showcased perfectly at the city’s first Regional Economic Summit which took place in venues across Derry on Monday.

The event coincided with Invest NI making the very welcome announcement that Alchemy Technology Services is to create more than 250 well paid, highly skilled jobs in a European Centre of Excellence at the City Factory.

It was the third financial technology investment in Derry in as many months, with Danske Bank announcing 67 posts last week and FinTru committing to the creation of 305 roles in late June.

The timings of the investments are no coincidence. Through collaboration, Derry can now help fin-tech employers deliver the specific up-skilling and training needed via Assured Skills Academies at North West Regional College.

Entrepreneur, Darragh McCarthy, CEO of FinTru, told summit delegates how the right talent is putting Derry at an economic advantage in securing more investment by companies in the fin-tech space.

Invest NI Chief Alistair Hamilton too lauded Derry’s skills pool as a major attraction for investors.

Special guest, the City of London’s Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, said “a diverse pool of talent” was key to fin-tech success in his backyard.

He also recognised a “spirit of innovation here” and remarked on the “real sense of optimism” in the city.

This sense of positivity prevailed throughout the day’s announcements, speeches, debates and meetings. However, one word kept popping up – an utterance that tied everything together. That word is collaboration.

It was fitting that Lord Mayor noted the significance of the 400 year-old partnership between London and our city. And there is much we could learn from our London partners during our exciting journey to increased prosperity.

More recent examples of ‘working together’ were exclaimed by others as making Derry a really attractive destination for big investors. Alistair Hamilton cited Derry’s “focus as a city”- with many stakeholders working closely together to articulate our collective ambitions – as a key ingredient for growth.

In my months as Chamber president, the focus on local collaboration has been sharpened, due to a number of factors including Brexit uncertainty, the lack of political leadership and, not least, the Chancellor’s invitation for Derry to bid for a City Deal. Business leaders are working together with local civic leaders, education chiefs, Invest NI, relevant government departments and others towards the greater good of the region.

A shining example of how such collaboration is bearing fruit is the Assured Skills Academies at the NWRC. These tailored programs will kick-start the careers of those employed by the new FinTru, Alchemy and Danske Bank operations in the city.

Collaboration to facilitate these specially tailored, pre-employment upskilling courses was a key factor in securing these new jobs. And the arrival of anchor companies such as FinTru and Alchemy is expected to attract more investors in the fin-tech sector.

This week’s summit afforded a clear insight into how Derry can build an ecosystem of talent, skills and infrastructure to allow innovation and entrepreneurship in finance and professional services to flourish. It gave Derry an opportunity to speak from a position of authority and confidence as a city which is seeing new investors from new and emerging industries.

The event was timely in terms of Derry’s City Deal. It provided much discussion and commentary that will be valuable to the stakeholders working together in the development of our robust City Deal bid.

One such commentary, an observation on Derry’s role in a ‘war on talent’ by Darragh McCarthy has certainly not fallen on deaf ears. He told delegates it’s “impossible to hire technology people in Belfast – but you can still do it in Derry”. He said: “We want those people to be in their home city and not burning out in travelling to Belfast.”

That’s what Derry wants too.

Through collaborative projects such as the Assured Skills Academies at NWRC, our new investors will get the right candidates and those candidates will receive the right training to deliver excellence.

This approach will create jobs that not only help grow our rich talent-base, but also keep our graduates at home and allow experienced professionals to return to a thriving regional economic hub.

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