Derry City and Strabane District Council has this week launched a range of initiatives designed to support local businesses affected by the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. With new regulations that will see the closure of many local businesses coming into force today, Council is encouraging local companies to explore their options in terms of establishing an online presence and adapting to conditions as best they can to continue the delivery of products and services.

As well as a special Business Resilience Programme, a series of remote skills development workshops has been announced to give people the support and information they need. The series will comprise of 8-10 two hour workshops to be delivered remotely via Zoom, which will be open to all members of the business community in the City and District including past and present participants of the Business Boost Programme.

Focus areas include managing stress, gearing up to sell on YouTube, the impact of COVID19 on local business, and good leadership.Companies can also apply for a place on the Business Online Programme, part of the highly successful Business Boost Programme, now open to micro enterprises and SMEs across Derry and Strabane.

The programme will assist local companies in going digital. Keeping in mind the challenges presented by the current restrictions around social distancing in the workplace it’s more important than ever that businesses establish an effective online presence for both staff and customers. This programme will also be delivered remotely and safely, using all modern technologies.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, urged companies to sign up.

While I welcome these new restrictions on people’s movements, I appreciate that this will have a serious impact on local companies and their ability to do business,” she stressed.”As a Council we are putting in place as many measures as we can to support local businesses at this very difficult time. This new series of workshops will provide the latest information on digital technology and how businesses can take their products and services online and support staff working from home. I would really encourage businesses to find out more about what help is available.

Business Support Manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Louise Breslin, said:

“With social distancing being a key factor for everyone – your staff, your customers and your suppliers – it’s vitally important that businesses introduce new ways of working.”These are uncertain times and we want to help businesses adapt in whatever ways they can, and both the workshops and the mentoring opportunities will provide the advice and expertise to help local companies get up and running online as quickly as possible.”

To register, simply contact Jacqui at Full Circle – to express your interest in the workshops. The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is Thursday 9 April @ 12noon.

The Programmes are part-funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Jobs and Growth [2014 – 2020] Programme.Ends​

With local businesses facing uncertain times in the coming weeks and months, Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business Support Team have been working on a special Resilience Programme to help local companies to continue to grow and develop.With COVID19 already having a significant impact on the business world, the programme includes a series of workshops and mentoring opportunities geared towards equipping businesses with the skills and resolve to adapt to the challenges ahead.The Business Resilience Programme is open initially to 15 local companies and will be delivered remotely and safely, using all modern technologies. This will allow businesses to participate fully, whether working from home or from workplaces.

The Programme is part-funded by Council, Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Jobs and Growth [2014 – 2020] Programme.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, encouraged local companies to avail of the support at this challenging time. “Although there is thankfully some financial support now in place for local businesses, many will still face a very difficult time in terms of continuing with the provision of regular products and services.”There are some ways to mitigate against the impacts and Council aim to help where possible in assisting businesses navigate their way around these challenges. It’s so important that we all work together to protect and sustain the NW economy as best we can, and prioritise the small local companies who may be struggling at this very uncertain time.”

The programme will link companies with one one of Council’s dedicated Business advisors to assess the current positioning of their business as a result of the Covid19 situation. This initial assessment will be followed by four remote workshops; Building personal resilience in tough times; Leading others in crisis situations; Looking after your mental health; Managing time and managing projects.Afer this participants can avail of mentoring support to help apply the key learning points to individual companies.Council’s

Business Development Manager, Louise Breslin, said: “These are unprecedented times and naturally many within the business community are daunted by the prospect of an uncertain future – that includes both the young and the experienced, the struggling and the successful.”We want to help build and encourage the mindset that will be needed to adapt and survive, to consolidate and grow. This will demand emotional resolve, a willingness to think outside the box, and  openness to re-invention, innovation and diversification. We want businesses to build on their resilience, seriously consider the options that are realistically open to them and ultimately make firm decisions about the way forward.”We are here to help in whatever way we can, and I would really encourage local enterprises to find out how they could benefit.”

Eligible businesses must be based in the Derry City and Strabane District Council areas and employ less than 50 people.To register, simply contact Jacqui at Full Circle – to express your interest in the Programme. The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is Thursday April 9 @ 12noon

Gallagher and McKinney Limited has built a new manufacturing facility at Skeoge Industrial Park, and is creating 14 new jobs.

The Derry mechanical engineering and piping firm provides contractor and sub-contractor project management on piping projects, which include the manufacture and installation of steel work support systems.

“We have ambitious plans for the business with a focus on key sectors including pharmaceutical, waste to energy and data centres in both GB and Europe. This investment in both our new facility and new people places Gallagher & McKinney in a strong position to deliver against these plans”  (Seamus Mellon, Managing Director of Gallagher and McKinney)

Pictured (L-R) are Seamus Mellon, Managing Director, Gallagher and McKinney with Bill Montgomery, Director of Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Invest NI.

Welcoming the company’s latest investment, Bill Montgomery, Director of Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering said: “The company bought its first one acre site on our Skeoge Industrial Park in 2017, with the option to further expand onto an adjacent three acre site, which it has now done.

“The new manufacturing facility has now been built and includes a new 10,000 ft stainless steel pipe fabrication workshop and a 2-acre laydown area. This will significantly increase the company’s capacity to bring more work in house and secure larger projects to meet the growing needs of clients.”

In addition, the company is expanding its workforce with 14 new jobs. The company is keen to build internal digital expertise with BIM/CAD operatives and junior engineers, along with skilled fitters and welders. It is also committed to investing in its apprentice training scheme with five new apprentices being hired each year.

Seamus Mellon, Managing Director at Gallagher and McKinney said:

“Historically we have worked as a sub-contractor on large piping projects but we have recently acted as principal contractor on substantial projects with Seagate Technology and are now looking to build on this element of our business. Investing in our team is crucial to our strategy to grow our business and bid for larger contracts and we are grateful for Invest NI’s support to recruit and get these positions in place quickly. “We have ambitious plans for the business with a focus on key sectors including pharmaceutical, waste to energy and data centres in both GB and Europe. This investment in both our new facility and new people places Gallagher & McKinney in a strong position to deliver against these plans.” (Seamus Mellon, Managing Director of Gallagher and McKinney)

Northern Ireland’s largest IT company Allstate has opened a state-of-the-art computing lab at Ulster University’s Magee campus, representing a major investment in educational resources for the North West.  

The new lab, based in the university’s School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems at Magee, is a boost to the core teaching competencies in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Information Technologies, Electronics and Embedded Systems, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and Renewable Energy Engineering.

The lab is an extension of the longstanding partnership between Allstate and Ulster University, which recognises the importance of developing professional and educational links while attracting next-generation IT talent to Allstate.

Professor Liam Maguire, Executive Dean at Ulster University said the new lab “demonstrates a strong commitment to providing professionally relevant education which will help our graduates to secure employment in the highly skilled Computing and Engineering sector”.

He added: “Our School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems has developed strong industry links in both teaching and research and this lab will enable us to enhance our industrial input across courses and research which make a tangible difference to the Northern Ireland economy.”

O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Ltd are aiming to gain a stronger foothold in the US sportswear market when they travel to Philadelphia and Boston this month as part of a joint trade delegation led by Donegal and Derry/Strabane Councils.

The Strabane-based sportswear specialists are one of seven companies from both sides of the border taking part in the week-long trip to America’s East Coast. The other companies are Humanity Cosmetics, Learning Pool, Brand It Technologies, EKO Chute, MMG Welding and Wild Fuschia Bakery.

Founded in 1918, O’Neills specialise in the design, manufacture, personalisation and supply of performance multi-sportswear including playing kit, training and leisurewear. The company has built its reputation on supplying high-quality Gaelic games kit and has become the choice of champions supplying high profile clubs and grassroots teams in rugby, netball, soccer, hockey and Australian rules, across the globe.

O’Neills employ 750 people at their production facility in Strabane, Co. Tyrone and a further 200 people in Walkinstown, Co. Dublin. The company was part of a trade delegation which travelled to Boston in 2016/2017 when they appointed a sales representative to tap into the US market.

O’Neills already supply a number of GAA clubs in the US and are particularly interested in exploring the US College sportswear market. They are also keen to build on their rugby customer base, particularly in the Philadelphia area. 

Orla Ward, Business Development Manager at O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Ltd explained: “On previous trips to the US we got a better understanding of the market in Boston and developed our very positive relationship with Council.”

She continued: “We are excited at the opportunity to make new connections in Philadelphia and Boston and the prospect of exploring niche markets and opportunities suited to our business. We can offer clubs, schools, colleges and universities in the US market bespoke playing kit, training kit and leisurewear.”

“Our team is constantly innovating, responding to customer demand and improving.  We are committed to sport, community and empowering athletes at all levels to become champions and reach the top of their game.”

O’Neills’ in-house design team works with clubs to ensure their apparel meets club and governing body requirements. Garments are created using the most advanced and durable player-tested fabrics and ranges are fully customised to offer the inclusion of club crest, sponsor logos, and club and player names.

The latest print and embroidery methods, including woven and silicone crests, are available to customers. Technical fabrics are knit in the state-of-the-art knitting facility in Strabane and dyed and finished in the dye house in Walkinstown. 

O’Neills’ 16-acre site at the Dublin Road Industrial Estate in Strabane includes a new 50,000 sq. ft. distribution facility which was opened last year to serve the company’s growing local and global customer base. 

The Trade and Investment Mission will be led by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council. It will include third level and further education providers together with development organisations including Ulster University, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, North West Regional College, Donegal ETB and Catalyst. The trip takes place from 11-15 November and is funded by The Executive Office and the Irish Government. For more information visit and follow the hashtag #IrelandNW19

Strabane based branding and signage technology specialists Brand-It Technologies are taking the first steps towards entering the US Market when they make the trip to Philadelphia and Boston in November as part of a joint trade delegation from the Donegal and Derry / Strabane Councils.

Brand-It Technologies are part of branding and signage umbrella company Visual Edge and are one of seven companies from both sides of the border taking part in the week long trip to the East Coast of the US along with Humanity Cosmetics, Learning Pool, O’Neill’s Sportswear, EKO Chute, MMG Welding and Wild Fuschia Bakery.

They employ a dedicated team of five people in their Dublin Road offices who design, manufacture and supply Fabexx – a range of fabric graphic aluminium profiles, components and accessories while they also offer an easy to apply and unique edge lit Light Guide Panel Film (LGF).

Brand-It Technologies have an extensive client base in the UK and Ireland and are keen to explore if there is a demand for their products and the possibility of business partnerships in the US.

“We would like to meet, discuss and identify companies or individuals with potential business opportunities, joint ventures or partnerships and explore where there may be some synergies,” explained Ian Friel who will represent Brand-It Tech on the delegation.

“We can offer expertise, extensive knowledge and new products to an emerging and growing market for fabric display systems and light boxes.

“We plan to expand and grow our presence in both the national and international market place because we believe we can offer unique and cost effective solutions.”

Brand-it Technologies are currently working on expanding their customer base and the sectors they currently operate in to include exhibition designers and builders, digital printing companies, sign manufacturers, interior designers (primarily commercial but also larger domestic projects), ship fit-out companies and shop fitting companies.

“We have been identifying and engaging with quality potential partners and discussing possible ways to conduct business together to our mutual benefit,” Ian continued.

“Because of our manufacturing and lighting background we can offer practical and technical advice to our customers and we can also offer bespoke solutions for unusual requests/projects.

“The range of fabric profiles is called Fabexx and they have been elegantly and specifically designed to be multi-functional and can be used in different configurations. 

“A fully demountable system that can be flat packed for much easier and lower cost transportation and also easier to build on-site.

“Our Light Guide Panel Film (LGF) is called Corelight and is very easy to apply without the need for any specialist equipment. The LGF allows any supplier the opportunity to create their own bespoke illuminated ultra thin panels from 1/16” up to 1/4” thick.”

The Trade and Investment Mission will be led by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Councils.

It will include third level and further education providers and development organisations including the Ulster University, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, the North West Regional College and Donegal ETB.

The mission takes place from 11-15 November and is funded by The Executive Office and the Irish Government.

For more information on the trade mission visit and follow the hashtag #IrelandNW19.

Derry woman and London College of Fashion graduate Aoife Doherty returned home in 2016 after six years studying and working in Newcastle and London. She set up Sass & Halo, designing and handcrafting bespoke crowns, at her kitchen table that year. Aoife, now 28, opened premises in Derry’s Craft Village in February 2017, and went on to win Council’s £10k Business Start Up Challenge. Today, Sass & Halo receives orders from all over the world, has more than 11,000 Instagram followers, and also employs two part-time staff.

Why did you decide to move back to Derry?

I always had this dream to come home. If anyone was thinking of living in London, I would say you have to experience it, but I never really thought I’d settle there. I went travelling for a while and then moved back to Derry and worked in retail, but it wasn’t really what I’d worked towards. I was thinking of going away again, but my Daddy, Thomas, died in 2016 and then everything kind of changed. It was a turning point for me. I thought, ‘I’m going to live here and I’m going to do something myself and try and make it work’.

Where did the idea for Sass & Halo come from?

I’m obsessed with wearing things on my head, so I was passionate about it, and at the time, there was a niche in the market. The hairdresser Ronan Stewart asked me to stock my pieces at the RoCo till for Christmas 2016 and they just kept selling out. I thought, ‘Maybe it’s something I can actually turn into a viable business’. I made enough money to put a deposit down in the Craft Village, and just took a massive risk.

What impact did winning the £10k Challenge have?

It was amazing. I got £5k and was able to buy a pink horsebox that’s been fitted out inside, so I could drive it to festivals and markets, literally taking the products to my target market on a day when people have disposable income. Winning the Challenge was great for marketing too, because so many more people heard about me and my business.

What have been your other key successes?

Topshop in Victoria Square, Belfast, got it touch last year and we had a stand in there for festival season, which was massive. And now we’ve gone down the wedding route, doing alternative wedding floristry – mainly silk or dry bouquets, hairpieces, décor – this summer has been wedding after wedding after wedding. I get a lot of job satisfaction when I do a wedding and it looks so beautiful. The business has grown so much from when it started.

What would you say to someone thinking of returning home?

You definitely do have to think about work and what you want to do here. There are challenges. But the best thing about having a business here is that everybody’s so supportive. I think supporting local is really big in Derry at the moment. Also, I think the internet is so powerful and we live in a time now where it doesn’t really matter where you are. You can move home, but you have this tool that anyone in the world can reach you and you can reach anyone.

What did you miss most about home when you lived in England?

Family. Getting from A to B much quicker. My Mommy’s home cooking. But then also Derry Chinese. It’s not as good over there. Free State Dairy Milk and Tayto. My Mommy used to post me packages with white pudding. I wasn’t sure if it was edible… I still ate it though!

How has Sass & Halo evolved since it started?

It’s completely changed. I used to think, ‘I’ll be a shop that people just come in and buy things and maybe the odd custom order’, but now pretty much everything is custom made. I’ve started to make stuff for Christmas, so that it is a shop at Christmas. I’m posting to all sorts of places – Florida, Australia. A lot of it seems to be word of mouth; I’ll get one order from Newcastle, then you get loads of messages from people in Newcastle.

What are your plans for Halloween?

We’ve been reaching out to celebrity make-up artists so we’re going to do some collaborations with them. I’ve also got exciting plans for my own costume. I love Halloween; I’m always trying to be as extra as possible. There’s nothing better than walking around and seeing all the costumes and all the children dressed up too.

And you’ll be part of Fashion Fest too?

I’m involved in the opening number. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to tell you – but we are sponsoring their heads! There seems to be a lot going on locally in fashion and the arts. There are loads of new start-ups and people trying different things.

A cybersecurity company has announced 70 new jobs in Derry-Londonderry as part of a £4.5 million investment.

Based in the city, MetaComplance develops cloud software for cybersecurity and compliance, providing software solutions and e-learning content to educate employees on the dangers of a cyberattack.

The firm is looking to grow its business into new markets in the US and Europe. The 70 new jobs, which will help develop the cybersecurity learning market via cloud-based solutions, will inject an estimated £1.9 million per year in additional salaries into the local economy.

MetaCompliance chief executive Robert O’Brien said: “Our ambition is to be internationally recognised in our field of expertise. We have seen a rapid global increase in the demand of cybersecurity products and services, particularly since GDPR has been implemented.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered £695,000 of support towards creating the new jobs and market development activity.

John Hood of Invest NI said: “MetaCompliance is already a strongly established business within the cybersecurity sector. The creation of these jobs will build upon its previous success and help the company to expand its presence in the North West, the cybersecurity market, and in new markets.

Invest NI has previously supported MetaCompliance with job creation investment in 2017; management and digital training for employee development; and R&D support for its Voyager and MyCompliance Cloud user awareness cloud solutions. The company is also currently receiving support through Invest NI’s Skills Growth Programme.

Foyle Cycling Club have welcomed the finest cyclists from home and abroad for the Cycling Ireland National Road Championships.

The three-day festival of racing saw a series of solo time trials on Thursday June 27, followed by road race action on Saturday June 29 and Sunday June 30.

International professionals battled with top locally-based amateurs for the title of national champion and the right to wear the coveted shamrocks on their jersey for the next 12 months.

The women’s and men’s elite road races were filmed for a highlights TV programme to be broadcast in the week after the championships.

Race Director Chris McElhinney of the promoting Foyle CC said: “This is a defining moment for our club and for the history of road racing in the North West.”

The action got under way on Thursday with the time trial, using a 36km course laid out on a traditional ‘out and back’ format starting and finishing near Speenoge, County Donegal.

The road race action began on Saturday afternoon with the Women’s Elite race and the men’s junior events utilising the 20.29km circuit beginning and ending in the heart of Derry/Londonderry.

They culminated with a final race to finish line on Shipquay Street, where the champions of Ireland were crowned.

Athletes from around the globe descended on Derry to take part in the O’Neills Walled City Marathon 2019 in June.

More than 1,000 competitors embarked from the Everglades Hotel on a stunning 26.2 mile course that took in all the sights and sounds of the city.

They ran through an urban and rural odyssey of streets, parks and greenways, in and out of the Walled City to an iconic finish in a spectator-packed Guildhall Square.