Belfast’s population may have declined over the past five decades, but today there are tangible signs that the city is on the move.
The population of Belfast is anticipated to grow from 330,000 to more than 400,000 within the next 20 years, while the population of the wider city region could potentially reach 750,000.
Over the past two decades, Belfast has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, the city’s talent pool - together with its excellent digital connectivity - creates a dynamic platform that will enable it to compete globally.
It increasingly exhibits the potential that other regional capitals in the UK and Ireland demonstrate and is becoming a powerhouse where wealth and prosperity is created for all its citizens, both in the immediate vicinity and much further afield.
Belfast is now Europe’s leading destination city for new software development projects and financial technology investment. The city has established itself as a global hub for cybersecurity and is home to the UK’s centre of excellence for the sector - the Centre of Secure Information Technology.
It is also one of the eight designated UK centres of excellence for financial services.
Belfast regularly tops national and international tables for its attractiveness as a location to do business
These centres of excellence, coupled with our young, talented and highly educated workforce, have resulted in a cluster of international companies - including Citi, Allstate, Liberty, Rapid7, WhiteHat Security and Proofpoint - choosing to operate from Belfast, with many making repeated investments having directly witnessed what is happening in the city.
There are, of course, challenges ahead for Belfast - and indeed Ireland - as the UK exits the EU. However, there is an increasing sense that Belfast’s digitally ready talent pool, together with an outstanding track record of delivery, makes the city a destination of choice for global business.
Today the Belfast skyline is brimming with cranes as numerous new hotels, offices and living accommodation emerge, while an increasing number of our city’s beautiful old red brick buildings are being repurposed for the modern age.
Over the next decade, we anticipate a 50% increase in grade A office space in the city. The immediate ambition set by Belfast City Council in the Belfast Agenda promotes the delivery of 1.5m sq ft over the next four years.
Belfast is a great place to live and bring up a family - that is no longer a secret. It also regularly tops national and international tables for its attractiveness as a location to do business. As each new investor arrives, we have the golden opportunity to demonstrate our great quality of life to the next wave of people attracted to our shores.
The ‘sell’ may be harder as the impact of our leaving the EU raises anxieties with investors, but if there is one word that captures the Belfast spirit, it is ‘resilience’. We are determined to maintain our momentum.