David Gavaghan, an alumnus of both Dublin's Blackrock College and Trinity College, Gavaghan has made a career out of being a front runner whether as the former chief executive of Titanic Quarter in Belfast or as the executive director of the London-based development company Quintain.
He is also hoping to be well ahead of the competition when his latest venture in Northern Ireland fully launches.
Gavaghan recently established Aurora Prime Real Estate, which is in the process of raising £50 million. It plans to focus on developing Grade A office space chiefly in and around Belfast in anticipation of the demand that could flow as a result of the new local rate of corporation tax that will come into play in 2018.
He is decidedly upbeat about Belfast and indeed the North's prospects in general – an optimism that will serve him well as he officially takes on his new role with CBI Northern Ireland as its 27th chairman.
The business lobbying organisation represents around one third of the private-sector workforce, and more than 60 per cent of the largest employers in Northern Ireland and Gavaghan succeeds
, managing director of Crescent Capital, the Belfast-based venture capital fund manager.
Gavaghan believes Belfast is on the cusp of an exciting new chapter, one that is going to give the city a different lease of life both economically and psychologically.
“There is a tangible sense of the opportunity in front of us with the reduction in corporation tax to 12.5 per cent from April 2015.
“There is also a more positive and optimistic outlook following the Fresh Start agreement but there is a lot more work to be done. In the short term, we have elections in Northern Ireland but after that, we have to work hard to ensure that the next programme for government delivers – it has to be ambitious and outcome focused,” Gavaghan says.
The looming UK referendum on EU membership is also a major concern and the CBI has made no secret of its stance that, if Britain leaves Europe, it believes it would hit economic growth and could lead to years of uncertainty. It has estimated that the impact of leaving would be 3-5 per cent off the UK economy.
Gavaghan believes it would better for businesses in the North if the referendum took place soon in order to end the state of confusion about what the future may hold. He believes it is important that a proper debate takes place to ensure local businesses fully realise what is at stake.
“It is vitally important for Northern Ireland’s economic future that we grow exports, that we develop new export markets, that we look outside of Northern Ireland, and therefore businesses need to know what the implications would be if Britain left the EU, what it would mean for Northern Ireland,” Gavaghan adds.
In his new role, he is determined to make sure that every business in the North has a clear idea of exactly what an EU exit could spell for them, regardless of whether they are large, small, indigenous or an inward investor.
He intends to champion home-grown talent during his term as chairman and is keen to highlight the successes of businesses such as diagnostic company Randox to help inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
In tandem with the immediate importance of the EU debate in the North, Gavaghan believes there should be an urgent move to get what he describes as the right strategy in place to “maximise” the benefits of the lower rate of corporate tax. Part of that, he believes, is aligning education and skills with the economy and protecting and guaranteeing a sustainable source of funding for universities and third-level institutions in Northern Ireland.