Thu 19th Sep 2013
NI Chamber conference delivers a ‘brilliant’ response
Above (L-R): David Manning (Airtricity), Mark Nodder (NI Chamber of Commerce), Leigh Meyer (Citigroup) and David Dobbin (Dale Farm).
Over 500 business people gather to seek inspiration and grow their business
Over 500 members of the local business community came together at Titanic Belfast on 19 September 2013 for one of Northern Ireland’s biggest and most unique economic conferences.
‘Growing Something Brilliant’, hosted by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Airtricity, aimed to inspire more businesses to set up, grow and export whilst helping smaller companies move successfully and profitably into export markets.
Keynote speakers included Leigh Meyer, MD, Global FX and Money Market Operations at Citigroup and David Dobbin, Group Chief Executive at United Dairy Farmers who outlined how they both grew brilliant businesses in Northern Ireland, collectively employing over 2,000 people.
Following the conference, NI Chamber President Mark Nodder said:
“Northern Ireland has the smallest business and employment base across the UK regions. That’s 114,000 private sector enterprises, just 2% of the UK total, employing just over half a million people, and that business base has been contracting.
“Since 2007 our overall business population has fallen by 13% and at this point we are one of only two UK regions where it is continuing to contract. We are also the only UK region where the business birth rate remains in decline. We also have only 1,400 goods exporters and to give a sense of scale that’s just 1.2% of our existing business base. This number has fallen from a peak of 1,700 in 2009 and has fallen faster here than in any other UK region.
“The responsibility for changing this economy for the better is down to us. Today we challenged businesses to help grow the local economy, and make Northern Ireland a special place better to live in, to work in and to visit. We asked the manufacturer who employs one thousand people what it would take for them to employ another thousand and the SME who employs five people what support they need in order for them to employ another one. We asked our biggest exporters how they managed to break into those markets and how we can inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”
The Conference also took the opportunity to question the 500+ delegates on a number of questions surrounding business growth using local company Qwizdom’s Audience Response System. It was revealed that out of the 500 businesses in the room:
68% believed that the Northern Ireland economy will grow in the next year with 15% believing it will stagnate and only 1% believing it will worsen.
77% of businesses were either very confident or quite confident that they can grow their business over the next year.
The number one barrier to business growth was identified as lack of demand (20%) followed closely by access to finance (19%) along with inadequate management skills (13%), ability to find the right staff (12%), costs of running a business (12%), and business regulation (6%).
NI Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Ann McGregor MBE said:
“It became very clear that we need to address access to the necessary skills, access to Finance (long and short term costs) and overcome very practical barriers to exporting, including knowledge gaps of the socio, legal and cultural issues faced by new exporters.
“We will listen to what we have been told today and publish very quickly the key outcomes of the event and we will take the recommendations and observations made by businesses to those in a position to make policy changes.
“What we ask of businesses is that you take the energy and dynamic here today and maintain a commitment to working with your colleagues in business in Northern Ireland. If you are a company who needs advice or support, make the phone call to someone you have met or heard speaking today, be proactive in seeking assistance from your fellow business people.”
David Manning, Director of Corporate Affairs, at the Conference’s headline sponsor Airtricity added:
“The path to growth has its ups and its downs and the importance of political and regulatory stability and commitment to supporting growth cannot be over-emphasised. This is particularly important for the delivery of long term infrastructure investment that provides the backbone for enabling economic growth and attracting investment here.”
Divided into a number of zones, the conference featured a ‘Support Zone’ where a number of support agencies offered one-to-one advice on some of the most pressing issues and an ‘Expert Zone’ where businesses were able to ask specific questions of a number of local experts. A third zone, the ‘Inspiration Zone’ provided businesses with the opportunity to hear the growth stories of Survitec, NACCO Materials Handling and Randox Laboratories. The Conference also featured in depth analysis from Kate Barker CBE, Chair, Economic Advisory Group and Professor Neil Gibson, Head of NI Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP) at the University of Ulster.
In addition to headline sponsor Airtricity, Growing Something Brilliant was also held in partnership with BDO, easyJet, NYSE Euronext and Pinsent Masons.