Posted on Monday 12 November 2018 by Ulster Business

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Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, explains how an entrepreneurial approach by the council is bearing fruit for the economy

Business doesn’t stand still. If companies aren’t evolving and flexing to meet the ever-changing demands of customers, then they’ll struggle to grow and will eventually be left behind by their more agile peers.

That’s particularly true in the digital age where disruption, once derided as blocking progress, is treasured.

With this in mind it stands to reason that if local government is to be effective then it must adopt the same mindset.

Growing the economy should be, after all, the number one priority for any council because it helps individuals, communities and the borough as a whole.

It’s certainly front and centre in Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, where we see our role as doing our utmost to provide the best possible conditions for business to flourish.

We focus our efforts on being an enabler to the wealth creators and it could be rightly said that we can be the private sector’s secret weapon.

To do that we have evolved, adopting a private sector approach to improve our own efficiency and ensure we are embedded in the local business community to understand exactly what they need.

It is one of the reasons we have exciting new additions to our senior leadership team, including two directors who bring that essential level of entrepreneurship.

Katrina Morgan has been appointed director of community with responsibility for delivering the council’s community plan, Putting People First, as well as the delivery of the council’s leisure strategy and well-being agenda.
 
With a specialism in business improvement and transformation of services, she will work alongside the council’s senior management team to enhance the borough’s community offerings for all its residents and visitors.

She has experience in the private sector and social enterprise world and knows how to apply that experience in a council setting having previously worked in the public sector.

John McVeigh has been appointed director of support services with responsibility for leading the development of service improvement and value around services to citizens.
 
He has extensive commercial and public sector experience in driving improvement and business innovation and will work alongside the council’s senior management team to lead the design and implementation of the borough’s transformation and modernising services programme for citizens.

Having trained and qualified as a chartered accountant with Deloitte, John has over 20 years’ experience working in senior governance and service improvement roles within the commercial and public sectors, including ASM, Citibank, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Financial Services Authority.

Both sets of skills fit perfectly with our vision for the future of the council and will not only help us support the economy but will help us deliver our corporate priorities which also include developing a high-performing council and implementing our community plan, Putting People First.

As chief executive, I feel so privileged to lead this incredible team at Mid and East Antrim, one which is innovative, ambitious and driven.

John and Katrina are ideal additions to further enhance the fantastic work of our director of operations, Philip Thompson, director of development, Linda Williams, head of corporate services, Louise Kennedy, and our head of corporate performance and improvement, Siobhan Fisher. 

Together with the backing of our elected representatives – who have demonstrated unwavering support to our focus on economic growth – we will be able to also push through a number of initiatives which have the potential to transform the economy in this borough.

A Heathrow logistics hub for Northern Ireland is one such headline project, as part of our development of the Belfast Region City Deal.

The London airport’s planned third runway represents one of the largest manufacturing undertakings and opportunities in a generation and is worth £187bn. Heathrow has been pioneering these hubs where components of the airport will be pre-assembled before being transported in consolidated loads to the airport
 
Procuring a hub for Northern Ireland could deliver an economic boost of £5bn and create 5,000 jobs for Northern Ireland, and a great deal of work has and will be put into making sure we have the best chance of being a partner in this project.

Meanwhile, the Belfast Region City Deal proposals continue apace – plans which are expected to deliver up to £1bn of investment to Northern Ireland. It consists of six councils, all working in partnership with central government and, critically, the private sector as wealth creators.

The city deal will deliver a huge boost to the region’s economic fortunes by uncovering the challenges facing the region and highlighting the most pressing needs through a process of discovery by the councils with the private sector, politicians, universities and colleges.
 
A similar, but more sector-specific, approach has been taken with the launch of our Manufacturing Taskforce, one which will help recoup the economic losses felt by the closure of the likes of JTI Gallaher and Michelin in the borough.

More than 100 representatives from manufacturing companies, from industry bodies and from the public sector have been brought together by the council to map the sector’s future path to renewed success. 
 
Tourism is also a big part of our economic growth strategy and the council is working closely with the local hospitality industry to make sure the brilliant assets we have in the borough help to draw visitors. For instance, we’re planning Carrickfergus town centre regeneration, working with our partners in the Department for Communities to achieve a sizeable increase in visitor numbers to Carrickfergus Castle; we’re promoting and investing in the Causeway Coastal Route, including The Gobbins, which has enjoyed a bumper summer with more than 20,000 people visiting so far this season.

These are all examples of how we, as a council, are making sure we are as agile as possible, so we can meet the changing needs of business in our borough and beyond.

I am determined to make sure that we, as the public sector, do our utmost to drive the economy in Mid and East Antrim and act as a true partner to the private sector.

As enablers, we have adapted our approach to make sure we are fully equipped with the skills and resources to do that and to make sure we keep up with the ever-evolving business world, one built by the wealth creators.

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