Civic spirit – can global giants learn from our children?
I doff my hat to the global bluechips which have made Belfast their home — but I also think it’s time they upped their game as civic partners.
Increasingly, companies are committing to Belfast as their European headquarters — and that’s good news.
But missing from the mix is the type of long-term and substantial sponsorship of civic events — think the Belfast Festival, or the marathon or the Belfast bikes scheme — which is the hallmark of their operations in the US cities in which they are headquartered.
Citi spent an eye watering $41m (£26m) to sponsor the New York public bike share scheme for six years.
Allstate spent $10m (£6.5m) on naming rights to the Allstate Arena in its home city of Chicago and is a generous supporter — think seven figures — of that city’s museums.
Liberty’s three year sponsorship of the Boston Pops Orchestra annual outdoor concert set the company back $8m (£5.1m).
As it happens, all three of those companies are good corporate citizens in Belfast where they also employ hundreds of workers in sustainable, breadwinner jobs. Indeed, Allstate and Concentrix, another global giant, have gone the extra mile in their commitment to Belfast with plans to build their own premises.
But the reality is that the many multinational tech businesses which have made Belfast their European hub haven’t lifted their game to the level of their US parent companies.
With the public now debating the pros and cons of a corporation tax cut, there could be no better time for these world-leading companies to show that they are committed to strengthening the city in which they are based.
In the Assembly this week, I raised the issue of ADDNI, a charity which serves children with ADHD and their parents but which faces a funding crisis. It’s my hope that the Minister for Health will do more to secure the centre’s future. And I also had a chance in the Assembly to pay tribute to the wonderful schools across Belfast — not least Scoil an Droichid Irish medium primary on the Ormeau Road where pupils raised £7,000 to send their classmate Alara to to her father’s homeland of Turkey with her family as part of her recuperation from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Now that’s real civic spirit.
One to Watch: I will be joined by a host of big-hearted business people in the Stix and Stones restaurant on Wednesday 1 July for a Dragons Den-style evening at which we will attempt to raise £20,000 for four exceptional arts groups: Belfast Community Gospel Choir, Kabosh Theatre, Belfast Film Festival and Wheelworks Youth Art group. That’s a big target and I would love to see you there (with your chequebook) — for details email Julie.