The annual event took place in virtual form for the first time in its history as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, over 100 business leaders, politicians, and invited guests from across the North West heard an optimistic message with Ms. McLaughlin revealing how a recent survey of Chamber members found that 72 per cent of respondents are confident of growth this year.
“The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for businesses in the North West. After nearly a year of lockdowns, restrictions and interruptions to business activity, companies across the region are at their lowest ebb, both financially and mentally.
“Recent events will give hope to local businesses desperate to emerge from the pandemic and begin focussing on recovery and rebuild. The signing of the City Deal Heads of Terms for the Derry City and Strabane City Deal, which will bring an unprecedented £250m in funding for local capital projects, will help towards fulfilling the unlocked economic potential of our region. The Executive’s Pathway to Recovery is also a first step in the emergence from lockdown but businesses will be eager to see indicative dates of when they can reopen as soon as possible.
“This year, we have an opportunity to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic and focus on boosting our regional economy again. This will only be possible if the Executive and UK Government provide businesses with the support and confidence they need going forward. The extension of furlough earlier this week is a welcome safety net which will protect jobs well into the summer. Alongside implementing the Pathway to Recovery as speedily as possible, we must now see the Executive delivering for North West businesses who are still reeling from the devastating impact government restrictions have had," said Ms. McLaughlin.
The event was sponsored by the Strabane sports clothing manufacturer O’Neills International Sportswear.
The keynote speaker was Invest NI CEO Kevin Holland.
Mr. Holland said: “Both COVID-19 and EU Exit have brought challenges and opportunities. We have supported the NI Executive to deliver at pace five emergency COVID response schemes, and to date have paid over £75million of much needed support to over 11,000 businesses. We have also offered £4.5million of support across eight Invest NI COVID recovery schemes to help businesses invest in activities to support recovery and long-term viability; and provided dedicated advice to over 3,200 businesses to help prepare for EU Exit.
“Simply rebuilding our economy back to its pre COVID-19 state will not be enough. As we move into our recovery phase, the Department for the Economy’s economic recovery plan will help to create a strong platform to help companies innovate, compete internationally, increase productivity, enhance skills and attract FDI.
"The North West business community will play an instrumental role in our recovery, with the City Deal a fundamental component. We look forward to continuing our partnership approach with the region to ensure that we position the North West for recovery and come out the other end stronger.”