By Peter Thomas, Managing Director, DLRT Ltd
Businesses in Northern Ireland were given an early warning sign last month as research from Ulster Bank suggested that the country’s economy may have begun a downturn. The financial institution – who conducts a monthly survey of private sector activity – revealed that there had been continuous falling output since March. In fact, the bank’s chief economist Richard Ramsey went as far to say that the “economic cycle has turned”, after six years of growth.
During the announcement, Mr Ramsey also said that “the severity or otherwise of that downturn will depend on a range of factors” and “the kind of Brexit that we see will of course be a major factor”. There is no doubt that the prolonged Brexit saga has taken its toll on the whole of the UK, and with the appointment of key Leave campaigner Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, there is plenty of noise suggesting we will definitely leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31st.
The uncertainty caused by Brexit has created volatility in the currency markets, prompting many NI-based companies to rethink investment strategies, whilst we’ve also seen some high-profile relocations from organisations all over the UK. Business is built on certainty, positive sentiment and stable politics – and I believe avoiding a hard border is crucial to the future of many organisations across the entire island.
Each day I commute from County Kildare across a seamless border without issue or delay. From a business perspective, the same is true for products we deliver on behalf of customers back into the Republic of Ireland and the An Post mail system. This activity is mirrored across many thousands of organisations on both sides of the virtual border, and therefore it’s important this is not put at risk by the introduction of a hard border.
For the good of the economy, it is absolutely vital for Northern Irish companies to buy from, sell to, collaborate with and support other businesses from the country, as well as those based in the Republic of Ireland. At DLRT, this has long been a top priority, and we have a client portfolio including names such as AIB, Permanent TSB and the Bank of Ireland (across both Northern Ireland and the Republic). In addition, we are also lucky enough to work closely alongside The Business Services Organisation (BSO), which provides a broad range of regional businesses support functions and specialist professional services to the health and social care sector in Northern Ireland.
Since 1999, DLRT has provided BSO with a specialist printing solution for prescription pads, which are used by surgeries, dental practices, nurse practitioners and various other health and medical professionals throughout the country on a daily basis. During this time, we have helped BSO to continually modernise the prescription pads, including the introduction and evolution of sophisticated security features to combat fraudulent activity.
Twenty years later, we now personalise, print and deliver to surgeries, practices, medical facilities and hospitals, who order on a regular basis directly from our office in Lisburn. The population of Northern Ireland sits at a modest 1.6m in comparison to mainland UK, but we are immensely proud that 99% of that population will regularly interact with items created in our facility.
We have been a member of the TALL Group of Companies since May 2015, and whilst we relish the work we deliver in the mainland UK and internationally, we take great pride when partnering with businesses based across Northern Ireland and the Republic. The positive knock-on effects of inter-country partnerships are extremely valuable, especially for nations the size of ours – and with a reported downturn in the economy we need to rely on home support.