A surge in new businesses has left Dungannon’s four business parks swamped with long waiting lists, leading to fears that the town’s burgeoning economic recovery might be stalled.
Speaking on the 21st anniversary of the day he began his tenure at Dungannon Enterprise Centre , Chief Executive Brian MacAuley expressed concern that hosts of businesses were leaving the district because of the lack of space.
“At the enterprise centre, we have a waiting list of over a dozen businesses who urgently need space, and, in a way, that’s a failure on our part”, he said.
“In addition, Dungannon Business Park is completely full, while Ballysaggart Business Park and Coalisland Enterprise Centre are also full with long waiting lists.
“We have a population boom in the town and in the past two years I have seen real signs of recovery, especially in the areas of engineering and digital marketing. Existing businesses are employing new staff and expanding with innovations.
“My fear is that when it comes to inward investment and big companies coming to Northern Ireland, they will bypass the town and drain away resources, because there simply is no room left for them.”
The optimistic business leader called on the planning department to zone more land for industrial use and look more sympathetically on existing businesses getting planning permission.
He added: “We also need to encourage the private sector to start investing in industrial sites. Over the past decade, there was too much money spent on the retail and property markets, which unbalanced the economy.
“After all, we aren’t the retail capital of Northern Ireland, but we have a thriving industrial base, and there is ample opportunity to invest in sites.
“Top of our agenda at the enterprise centre is to secure more space, and we are actively pursuing new sites to cater for the demand.
“We know that new units will be filled very quickly.”
Brian also spoke of the personal joy he derived from inspiring and supporting so many local businesses.
“I’ve seen this place grow over the last two decades to a thriving centre housing 80 businesses employing about 256 people.
“We ran a training programme recently for people interested in self-employment and had 180 people enrolled.
“In fact, up to 20 people come through our doors every month, considering starting a business.
“I have great faith in Dungannon people and their business acumen. We have a fantastic work ethic and history of entrepreneurial excellence.
“And it has given me great satisfaction to see people’s business dreams nurtured into reality. Here we are, emerging from a recession and the town is thriving in terms of businesses.”