Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has seen a significant amount of economic activity return to the region following years of improved political stability with any businesses and departments of government are using the region's office space potential to greater and greater extents. The fact is that that much of the region's economy remains either industrial or agricultural. However, if you got to certain areas of Belfast you would be forgiven for not realising this. There have been significant parts of the city which have either been converted to office usage or completely redeveloped with purpose built office blocks and business parks. Indeed, over the course of the last ten years or so, the amount of construction in the first city in the region has been unprecedented. The office-based service economy is really flourishing in the major cities, with Belfast leading the way. Nowadays, well known and UK-wide businesses operate from offices in Northern Ireland and there are even multinational corporations to be found, as well. Lloyds Banking Group, Danske Bank and Citigroup are all major employers in the region.

Economic Strategy

That much of the urban centres of Northern Ireland have been redeveloped to make them appear to be 21st century modern cities - to rival anything in Europe - is no accident. There has been a significant amount of private sector investments that have gone into the region, but it is government which remains the key player. Sponsored by the UK government for many years, it is now the Northern Ireland Executive which is at the heart of strategising the region's economic future.

Much of the approach has been to build growth and prosperity, as you might expect. The rise of centrally located office spaces - where Northern Ireland's two communities can come together and work in harmony - has been a central plank of that strategy. They are not only designed to provide service sector and high-tech business spaces which will drive the economy of Northern Ireland out of its traditional areas, but to do so in a way that connects with both communities. So, social cohesion as well as economic growth has been at the forefront of the Executive's approach.

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Belfast Embraces Science and Hi-Tech

Some major investment has been poured into Northern Ireland to make it a hub for the country's scientific research sector. Hi-tech industries have also been courted, with a combination of light manufacturing facilities, coupled with state of the art office buildings which are in close proximity, usually in Belfast. A good example of the approach would be Northern Ireland Science Park, which is situated close to the old shipyard areas of Belfast. This is not simply an edge-of-town light industrial park, but one which is dedicated to meeting the needs of contemporary businesses which are competing on a global stage. Therefore, things like a resilient fibre network and super fast internet connections are a given. Belfast-based parks like this one - and others such as Ormeau Business Park and East Belfast Enterprise Park - tend to be set up to cope with the needs of knowledge based enterprises which are both large and small, so there are units to help established firms as well as start-ups who can gain advantages of proximity with larger operators. These days, Belfast's offices lets tend to be flexible, meaning that businesses can plan for short term projects whilst keeping an eye on longer term growth.

Northern Ireland's government has had some successes with attracting R&D operations to the region. Principally through its agency Invest Northern Ireland, many laboratory based businesses and departments have sprung up in the cities. There are even some financial incentives in place to attract newcomers. Northern Ireland is also signed up to Enterprise Europe Network, which gives access to some 600 knowledge based organisations across 50 or so countries.

The Regional Urban Centres

Belfast has seen the lion's share of office space redevelopment investment, but it is by no means the regions only up and coming urban centre. Armagh, Lisburn, Newry and Derry - which is still known to many as Londonderry - are all cities that are noteworthy for their office blocks. Laganview Enterprise Centre is a typical business park which is the sort you will find all over Northern Ireland's regional cities. Located near enough to the city centre of Lisburn to be convenient, but far enough away that the rental prices remain competitive, Lagan View is a multipurpose low-level development set of two storeys. The park has number of commercial units which can be used for a variety of purposes, including 150 person office suites.

In Newry, which enjoys excellent communications with Belfast, to the north, and Dublin, to the south in the Republic, there are number of purpose built business centres. Indeed, Invest Northern Ireland has its headquarters in the city. Loughway Business Park and Carnbane Business Centre are both suburban centres which cater for start up businesses and more established enterprises which are looking to relocate. Newry also has a number of centrally located enterprise centres, including Mount View Business Park, by the river.