Sat 6th Jul 2013
NI Chamber & Export First partners urge greater role for private sector in driving growth abroad
Above: Mark Nodder, Vice-President of the Northern Ireland Chamber, Caroline Keenan, Tax Director at ASM Chartered Accountants, Ruth Graham, Head of Trade & Export Finance at Northern Bank and Peter Stafford, Corporate Partner, A&L Goodbody.
A greater role for the private-sector in helping smaller companies in particular is recommended in the response to the Executive’s draft Programme for Government by Export First partners Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Northern Bank, A&L Goodbody and ASM Chartered Accountants.
The group, formed a year ago to help accelerate growth, says the private sector could assist the growth of smaller businesses in global markets through a range of measures including more effective mentoring programmes led by experienced business people in key areas such as strategic sales and marketing.
The response recommends that “priority should continue to be given to measures to assist many more companies, especially SMEs, to sell products and services overseas” and that “funding for export promotion programmes, including those provided by Invest NI, should, at the very least, be safeguarded over the term of the Programme for Government”.
Welcoming the draft Programme for Government (PfG) commitment to promote accelerated growth in export sales particularly in markets beyond the United Kingdom, the partners believe it should be possible to achieve growth beyond the programme’s target of a 15 per cent rise in sales abroad over the next four years.
The Export First partners urge that additional funding should be made available in key capability areas such as strategic sales and marketing skills, export finance, market research and negotiation.
The group recommends: “Invest NI should be ensured funding to develop major programmes such as market Visits and the further expansion of in-market support provided by business people experienced in the main markets.
“In addition, we would wish to see the development of 1-1 mentoring programmes provided by business people with the relevant professional experience. Sufficient funding should be provided to attract experienced export mentors”.
The response advocates the continued expansion of export marketing programmes especially those developed by Invest NI and including market visits, exhibitions and particularly in-market support by suitably qualified business people.
It also recommends an expansion of visits and in-market support in growth markets such as the BRIC regions. Greater support on-the-ground in China, Brazil and South America would produce tangible benefits. On-the-ground support services should include a sharper focus on lead generation.
The group says that Export First is an excellent role model of how the private-sector could provide effective leadership in helping SMEs either move into exports or experienced exporters to win more business abroad.
Commenting on the Export First response to the draft Programme for Government:
Mark Nodder, Vice-President of the Northern Ireland Chamber, says: “Chamber members have tremendous knowledge of and experience in exporting activities and could make a significant contribution to SMEs in particular in terms of advice and practical support required to win worthwhile business abroad.
“We believe that faster growth in sales overseas could result from measures that enable SMEs to draw on this deep pool of expertise and the wealth of contacts they have in international markets.”
Ruth Graham, Northern Bank Head of Trade & Export Finance says: “The Programme for Government’s recommendations to grow exports and to diversify into new, emerging markets such as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), are both necessary and exciting for our economic prospects. Aspiring exporters should not to be discouraged by the current challenging global and local conditions, but should fully explore their potential and avail of the wealth of expertise and experience on offer through the Chamber’s Export First programme, and take every opportunity to learn from Northern Ireland’s many successful, experienced exporters.”
Caroline Keenan, Tax Director at ASM, says: “Growing exports faster is now widely accepted as a key economic driver. To ensure success in international markets companies need to be aware of the accounting and tax issues of operating in overseas markets, taking advice on these at an early stage and ensuring that they are incorporated into business plans.
“Export First was created to enable companies, both large and small, to access expert advice. Growing profitable exports faster requires the co-ordinated and strategic approach that Export First has pioneered.”
Peter Stafford, Corporate Partners, A&L Goodbody: says “Export First is proving a successful initiative because it draws together the networks of the partners here and abroad to assist SMEs in particular. The message for the Executive is that export growth could be accelerated by the creation of a campaign across Northern Ireland that draws together business organisations to offer support and in identifying contacts and potential new business opportunities. Exporting should become a priority for the community and successful exporters should receive greater recognition and acclaim.”
A copy of the Export First response to the draft Programme for Government can be downloaded below: