It is not uncommon to hear local people running down Dungannon and the local area, but quite often it is because of being too familiar with the place. A few weeks ago, I had a friend up from Dublin who thought the town was a great place - friendly, lots of independent shops to choose from and most of all clean and welcoming. Initially, I thought to myself “if you only knew…” but as she continued to exalt the virtues of the town, I began to come around to the thinking that “yes it has a lot going for it”.
Last week the Mid Ulster Council hosted the teams from Invest NI that are responsible for promoting Northern Ireland business around the world, and I was fortunate to be in the room when the unique business characteristics of the area were outlined. To my surprise the greater Dungannon area has a lot more going for it when it comes to its economy. For instance, Mid Ulster District covers an area of 1714 km² and has a population of more than 140,000 and growing – that’s about just under 8% of the population of Northern Ireland. It is forecast to be the fastest growing area in the Province and yet unemployment is practically nil. Thanks to the success of the local manufacturing businesses in south Tyrone, we are the envy of the rest of the country, being the exporting engine for Northern Ireland. Mid Ulster is the fastest growing district in Northern Ireland and is home to over 8,500 companies. There is no larger concentration of businesses outside of Belfast than here. Add to that fact, Mid Ulster is the most entrepreneurial region in Northern Ireland with more people self employed per head of population than anywhere else. Many of the 50,000 jobs in the area are mainly concentrated within micro businesses and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. Our area contributes towards producing 7.3% of the Northern Ireland’s total economic output.
This is a remarkable achievement in itself, when you consider we are nowhere near on a par with the main economic centres of NI, with our limited road system, infrastructure and patchy broadband connectivity not making it easy to connect with international markets. And yet we are not resting on our laurels. Local businesses continue to advertise for jobs and orders from all over the world are still being secured. In my opinion, the only thing missing is self-acknowledgement. Yes, I know we are a nation that loathe any self-praise, but surely it won’t hurt much to have a bit of pride in our area.
My view is that the people of Dungannon have come out of the greatest recession in living memory with flying colours. We have all played our part in making it what it is today, extraordinary, and should take a bow. Well done! Ok that’s enough of that – now back to work everybody!