2021, like 2020, was overshadowed by the COVID 19. However, despite of the pandemic, and the changes as a result of BREXIT, the mid ulster economy managed surprisingly well through 2021.
Businesses so far have coped well the changes as a result of BREXIT and the NI protocol, however, the uncertainty remains a concern.
The last year has seen a change in the way we do business now - flexible and hybrid working has become the norm and is likely to stay in the future.
Businesses have seen shopping online becoming the model. This will continue to have a negative impact upon our town centre and may result in further shops closing down if they are not supported.
Where Facebook was the dominant social media platform, consumers have migrated towards other platforms such as Instagram and Tic Toc.
Local manufacturers in engineering and food sectors will continue to face real problems recruiting staff and this will continue in 2022. Small businesses will also face the same problem as a result of the large employers attracting workers with better financial packages and incentives.
Skilled workers, particularly in the building sector, will become scarce due to the lack of apprentices and young people pursuing a career in the sector and the attractive opportunities in the Republic.
Many people have taken 2021 to review their career path - some have taken early retirement, some such in the hospitality and education sectors have changed their career paths and moved to other jobs. It will be interesting to see how this will impact the entertainment and hospitality sectors in 2022.
Lockdowns and video conferencing has taught us that we are social animals and that we need face to face interaction to do business well. At the same time more businesses now realise how easy it is to do business worldwide and people are more reluctant to do unnecessary travelling
Start up businesses in mid ulster remained high over 2021 and is forecasted to do so in 2022. Self- employment as a career option is still seen as an attractive option for local people.
An unknown factor is the hidden emotional and mental trauma the pandemic has had on our local community, however overall I would be optimistic about 2022. We are coming out of 'stormy waters' and a feeling of relief will sweep across our community in the short-term. There is a lot of rebuilding ahead but at the same time there is the enthusiasm to start.