Collaboration is key to Derry economic growth

Jennifer McKeever.
Jennifer McKeever.

Strong collaboration is fuelling the economic growth of our city and will play a critical role in the future prosperity of the North West region.

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 June.

The timings of the investments are no coincidence. Through collaboration, Derry can now help ‘FinTech’ 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 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 also 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 Derry.

This sense of positivity prevailed throughout the day. However, one word kept popping up - something that tied everything together. That word was collaboration.

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.

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 stakeholders working together in the development of our robust 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.