DUNGANNON is set to be the centre of Northern Ireland’s business world on Thursday when a high-powered conference involving leading economists will discuss the future of the local economy.
Organised by Dungannon Enterprise Centre, the event will host a panel of politicians and economic experts including Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers and representatives of leading consultancy houses.
A showpiece of the conference which takes place at the Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre, will be the live video link with the Chief Economist at Danske Bank, Angela McGowan.
Consultants from Purple Dot - the Business Improvement Team, Venturei Network and Brilliant Red Consulting will discuss the opportunities and threats that lie ahead for local businesses.
The debate is sandwiched between an Up For Business Networking event at 9am and “Dungannon International” – a Rotary Club perspective at 2.30pm.
Latest government figures have revealed Dungannon as Northern Ireland’s rising star in terms of youth, health, demographics and manufacturing jobs.
Not only has the local district been revealed as having the sprightliest demographic in the North, with the youngest, healthiest, most diverse and fastest growing population, latest census figures have also charted the town’s dramatic rise to become the North’s third biggest industrial base, and the largest west of the Bann.
A total of 5004 respondents in the 2011 census reported themselves as working in Dungannon’s manufacturing sector, which works out as 20 percent of the population, the highest proportion of any district council area in the North.
Only Craigavon and Belfast, both with much larger populations, boasted more manufacturing jobs with 6739 and 6906 respectively.
The figures, which were released by the Northern Ireland Statistical Research Agency, show that the local district is the best placed to prosper and grow among Northern Ireland’s 26 council areas.
Dungannon’s unlikely emergence as an industrial heartland has been linked to the strong presence of engineering firms and the dramatic rise in the local population, with large numbers flocking to the district from Eastern Europe and further afield.
According to separate figures released by the Department of Finance, a total of 70 companies in the Dungannon District had a turnover of more than £5m last year.
The district currently has 3,325 successful businesses in sectors ranging from food and agricultural companies, to construction, retail, manufacturing, property and transport.
Dungannon Enterprise Centre Manager Brian MacAuley said he was not surprised by the figures.
“I’ve always maintained that Dungannon District is in an economic bubble compared to other parts of Northern Ireland”, he said.
“This is down to the people of the district, the people who were born here, and the people who have come here from other countries. They all have one thing in common and that is a strong work ethic.
“Dungannon District has never had any major inward investment, and so it has been a matter of people having to do it for themselves.
“Dungannon’s success has been achieved in spite of outside help. We haven’t waited for it to happen, or moaned that we haven’t had enough support, we just got on with it.
“In many ways, I am very fortunate in my role at the Enterprise Centre. Every day I get to see first-hand the determination and self-motivation of many of our entrepreneurs.”