Belfast Chamber has appointed former Economy Minister Simon Hamilton as its new Chief Executive (CEO).
The appointment of a CEO is part of Belfast Chamber’s six-point plan for the year ahead and marks a step-change in the business organisations strategy.
Rajesh Rana, President of Belfast Chamber said: “A year ago Belfast Chamber refreshed its constitution and set itself a number of ambitious targets for future growth. The appointment of a CEO was a strategic goal which would allow the organisation to grow and fulfil its members’ needs and aspirations.
“We have held an exhaustive recruitment and interview process for this role and the unanimous verdict of the selection committee was that Simon Hamilton was the strongest candidate.
“Simon comes with a wealth of skills and experience. He trained and worked as an accountant, and he served as Economy Minister and Minister of Finance and Personnel. This background brings an unrivalled insight into the needs of business in our city and the wider economy.
“Simon is stepping down completely both from frontline politics and from political life. Belfast Chamber is an apolitical organisation and will continue to be so.
“We look forward to welcoming Simon into Belfast Chamber and working together to fulfilling our strategic aims on behalf of our members to make Belfast a business-friendly city that is a great place to work and live in and to visit.”
Simon Hamilton commented: ‘After more than 12 years in the Northern Ireland Assembly, I will be standing down as an MLA for the Strangford constituency in the coming weeks and step away from politics completely to take up post as Chief Executive of Belfast Chamber.
“I am very excited by this tremendous opportunity to support Belfast Chamber members and work with the wider business community, with whom I share the aim of continuing to transform and regenerate our capital into the vibrant and bustling city we all know it can be.
“This stimulating new role allows me to pursue my passion for growing our economy and I look forward to working with the City Council, all of our political parties, government and its agencies as well as business, to create opportunities for people across our community. The work of the Belfast Chamber is apolitical, and I look forward to working with members and stakeholders in a completely non-partisan fashion.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in public service. Whether in Ards Borough Council or in the Northern Ireland Assembly, it has been a huge honour to represent all of the people of my home constituency. Since first being elected to the Assembly in 2007, I have been privileged to hold three ministerial portfolios and to have been involved in so many policy initiatives that have made a positive difference to people’s lives.
I will always be deeply indebted to the Party for the trust placed in me and the wonderful opportunities that responsibility has afforded me. I wish Arlene and all my former colleagues at Stormont well, especially in their ongoing efforts to restore the Assembly and restore devolved government which is the best way forward for everyone in Northern Ireland.
“After being involved in politics in one way or another for almost 20 years, now is the time to contribute to the place I love in a different way. I now look forward to working with a new constituency, that of Belfast Chamber’s members. Belfast is the beating heart of Northern Ireland. When the city does well, the whole region does well. Even after the significant strides forward that Belfast has taken over the last decade and more, it still has so much unfulfilled potential.”
Simon concluded: “The chance to represent such a broad range of businesses located across the entirety of the city is exceptionally exciting and I really look forward to helping the members to realise their ambitious vision for their businesses and for the city.”
Rajesh Rana continued: “Belfast Chamber has ambitious plans for the year ahead. We will be holding an international conference in February 2020 – this will be focused on the Vision for our city and will bring in local voices and international speakers. We are planning a business lunch this autumn and our Belfast Business Awards remain the benchmark for awards in our city.
“With a CEO of the calibre of Simon in place we look to the future of Belfast Chamber and our city with confidence”.
Belfast Chamber is made up of members from a full range of commercial enterprises from retailers to hoteliers, solicitors to estate agents, property developers to media, tech companies to transport providers and aims to deal with a wide range of issues affecting trade and commerce in Belfast.