The Sunday Times Fast Track 100, is an annual publication which takes a snapshot of the UK economy and identifies the fastest growing companies across the UK. It is an important point of reference as although it does not pick up every successful fast growing business as many choose to avoid the PR inclusion in such a publication gives, it helps the business community understand current trends in business including identifying new areas areas were private sector growth is likely to occur. Entries include businesses from a wide range of industries from Restaurants and healthcare providers though to wind farms and technology.
As I read the through the report however I was dismayed to see that there were no businesses from Northern Ireland included in the report. I have reproduced below (with permission) the map of the UK showing the headquarter locations of the Fast Track 100 as you can see, Northern Ireland has a big fat Zero against it. This statistic might not worry the Sinn Fein Socialists or DUP who have what could be described at best as a ‘distrust’ of the private sector, but it worries me greatly and it should worry all Northern Ireland citizens that we have performed so poorly in this report.
The tone of this report yet again reinforces the points that many of us have made time and time again on Slugger that there is something fundamentally wrong with our cultural attitude to business that is stopping our economy it it’s in tracks and we need to face up to what this is and correct it.
I could speculate as to why we are so far behind the UK and Irish Republic economies and there are many valid reasons that could be mooted, it could be because we lose our brightest and best talent to emigration, it could be prohibitive red tape preventing entrepreneurs setting up and succeeding in business, it could be the cost of doing business in NI, it could be our education system promotes the professions and does little to encourage and promote entrepreneurship as a valid career choice, it could be a lack of finance available to NI businesses? In truth it is likely to be combination of all the above.
Taking the football analogy of my original headline further, if Northern Ireland was to be compared with the economics of a football team, we have basically decided to follow the Real Madrid Model in buying in ‘Galactico” superstars by going down the route of 12.5% Corporation Tax Reform, we want the global superstars Corporates to locate here, maybe they will, maybe they won’t but that is the path we have chosen.
We would have adopted the ‘Southampton’ model which is to identify, invest and nurture local talent and build from the bottom up and ensure these businesses have the access to whatever they need to compete on the world stage, but sadly, our politicians have ‘relegated’ this approach to secondary status.
This report for me, yet again makes sobering reading and our politicians need to get to the bottom of why we have performed so badly and adopt an economic strategy that actually stands chance of working.