Californian tycoon’s ringing endorsement of the potential of NI

Morning View
Morning View

Last week Mr William HC Chang called into the office of this newspaper as part of his 24-hour visit to Belfast.

Mr Chang, as is typically the case with successful businessmen who have multiple commitments, was short of time on his brief trip to Northern Ireland.

Even so, he emerged with a clear sense of the Province’s potential.

The Californian-based investor visited the Titanic Quarter, and Queen’s University, and Belfast City Hall. He walked through the city centre and admired the buildings and atmosphere and the regeneration of the Cathedral Quarter, where he met a group of intelligent young would-be entrepreneurs.

Mr Chang is of Chinese-Japanese-American heritage, and was schooled in England, yet he was immediately able to connect with various aspects of life here: the port area of Belfast (he once ran San Francisco’s port), the re-birth of city centre housing for young people (his family were big in real estate), the booming technology sector in the Province (he lives in Silicon Valley), and rugby (he chairs the US Rugby Union).

His impressions of Belfast, as relayed in the interview in today’s News Letter, after such a short stay (his first in Northern Ireland) is a ringing endorsement of our potential as a society.

There are huge obstacles to overcome before the Province can reach that potential: we are deeply reliant on taxpayer handouts from London, and there is little sign of a serious political effort to wean Northern Ireland off those subsidies, which one day are likely to end, for one reason or another.

There is also political stalemate, currently caused by red line demands from Sinn Fein, who now want to project themselves as the people who are driving things forward when the reverse is true.

But if we can crack those problems, Northern Ireland, with its sporting heritage, its countryside and its smart young workforce could yet become a highly sought after place to live and do business.