Ballykeel Business Development Ltd based in Ballymena has been named the most enterprising place in Northern Ireland.
The non-profit making organisation is the regional winner of the DTI’s ‘Enterprising Britain 2006’ competition, an annual national contest to reward towns, cities or areas of any size that can demonstrate creative entrepreneurial activity.
Since January, Invest Northern Ireland has been searching for its most enterprising place, with the hope that the winner will be selected as the overall UK champion at the national competition finals in September.
Key to the success of Ballykeel Business Development Ltd’s strategy was the creation of a 10,000 sq ft development on former waste ground to accommodate workspace units, training facilities and administrative support, in one of the most socially disadvantaged wards within the local council area.
Opened in 2002, the initial targets of the development were to generate occupancy levels of 75% by 2005 (with 70% of all business tenants drawn from the local community), to create 30 new jobs, to attract funding of £600,000 and to be self-sustainable in five years.
However the centre has far exceeded these targets and is now 100% occupied with 90% of the tenants coming from Ballykeel and 38 new jobs created. On the strength of this success, more waste ground has been secured, as well as an additional £750,000 investment for the development of 16 business units to meet local demand.
All profits generated by the project are fed back into the community and used to make the initiative self-sustainable.
Congratulating Ballykeel Business Development Ltd on its success Graham Davis, Director of Entrepreneurship at Invest NI, said:
“I am delighted to announce that Ballykeel Business Development Ltd is this year’s regional winner. It has demonstrated a high degree of creativity and innovation in its attempts to promote the spirit of enterprise within an area of serious economic and social depravation.
“The Ballykeel entry exemplifies Invest NI’s aim of encouraging more people from all walks of life to take a risk and start a business, something which is of vital importance for the future success of our economy. I wish the company the best of luck as it moves on to the next stage of the competition,” he continued.
Enterprising Britain 2006, which is run by the Department for Trade and Industry’s Small Business Service in partnership with the Regional Development Agencies and Devolved Administrations, aims to identify enterprise champions: places that have created jobs, brought communities together, and made a real difference to local businesses and local people.
Commenting on the success of the entry Melaine Christie Boyle, Chief Executive of Ballymena Business Centre Ltd said:
“This award recognises the achievements of a number of different people whose collaborative efforts have allowed us to exceed the original targets set down at the start of the project.
“It is a truly community-based and self-sustainable initiative which has made a real impact upon the levels of local entrepreneurial activity and there are plans to replicate what we have achieved in Ballykeel in other disadvantaged ward areas,” she continued.
Ballykeel Business Development Ltd will represent Northern Ireland in the national stage of the competition, which begins on 31 May. Announcement of the overall winner will be made at the high-profile ‘Enterprising Britain 2006 Awards’ in London on 14 September 2006.