TO date, the new millennium has already provided many encouraging signs for business and there is good reason to be optimistic about the future economic prosperity of Northern Ireland.
The return to government under a NI Assembly, with local representation and accountability, is widely recognised as a positive step, in spite of some unresolved issues around the Ministries of Regional and Social Development, which we can only hope will not damage the long term workings of those Departments.
Having local input and governance over local affairs will help ensure that the concerns of people in Northern Ireland are on the agenda, and will be fairly addressed. From a business viewpoint, decisions taken about the economy or investment will surely have the added assurance of giving top priority to the needs of Northern Ireland, and looking after the best interests of our people.
We must ensure that by working in partnership we can gain more for our economy, for our young people and for our communities.
By using the plural term here I am not referring to the generally accepted two religious 'communities' into which most aspects of life in our Province are sadly divided - rather I mean the rural and urban communities which exist all across Northern Ireland, and range from just a few people in a small village, to much larger and more populous communities in areas of Belfast and Londonderry.
This has been my second year as Chair of Business in the Community in Northern Ireland, and I have continued, throughout my term of office, to be encouraged and enlightened by the work that goes on around Northern Ireland to develop and improve the lives of the people living and working in communities - large and small, advantaged and disadvantaged, rich and poor.
What I find particularly encouraging is the positive role played by companies in helping with this development and playing an active part in these communities. …