Thu 6th Feb 2014
NI Chamber calls for urgent export action plan
“Urgent action is needed to boost Northern Ireland exports” – that was the message delivered by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce during a briefing to the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee earlier today.
The Chamber presented the committee with a number of key issues that must be urgently addressed if Northern Ireland is to grow its export base and meet targets set by the Programme for Government.
Questioning the current framework, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce President Mark Nodder called on the government to urgently deliver an export action plan for Northern Ireland:
“The Economic Strategy currently states that it prioritises export-led growth and has a target to increase the value of exports by 20% by 2014/15. However one year into that target exports have fallen by 1.2%. The number of businesses exporting goods has been falling and currently stands at just under 1,500 compared to 1,700 in 2010.
“Government must recognise the scale of the export challenge we face and commit to delivering an export action plan for Northern Ireland. More resources must be targeted towards support that assists businesses throughout the entire export lifecycle. The current support system is fragmented and fails to recognise that every business looking to export has different requirements.”
Highlighting the private sector’s willingness to assist government, Mark Nodder said:
“Government do not have to solve this issue alone and should recognise and support the role of the private sector in delivering trade support to business. If government can cooperate with the private sector through a partnership approach then together we can make it easier for businesses to find the support or advice that they need in a timely and efficient manner.
“Growing Northern Ireland’s export base is critical to the future prospects of this economy and urgent action is needed by government to make this happen.”
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce’s briefing to the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee was delivered by President Mark Nodder, Chief Executive Ann McGregor and economist Maureen O’Reilly, who carried out in-depth research on behalf of the Chamber. The research revealed the following key points which were also raised to the committee:
- Northern Ireland’s business base is very small which presents a significant challenge in trying to ‘scale up’ for export growth. Northern Ireland has the smallest private sector across the UK regions – 2.3% of the UK total and is dominated by small firms. Almost 60% of Northern Ireland’s businesses employ less than 50 compared to 47% across the UK. Northern Ireland also has the lowest business ‘birth rate’ of the UK regions (7% versus UK 11%). Much of the gains made in the business base during the strong growth period of the early 2000s came from an increase in sole traders and not from SMEs.
- Correspondingly, Northern Ireland therefore has a small export base which is heavily dependent on a small number of exporters. Those 1,500 goods exporters make up less than 3% of Northern Ireland’s registered business base. 50% of NI’s manufacturing exports are accounted for by just 10 companies with the largest firms (250+ employees) accounting for 70% of exports. In Scotland for example 60 companies account for 50% of exports there.
- Current and potential exporters are facing a number of barriers. The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce hosted the ‘Growing Something Brilliant’ Conference in September 2013 to inspire more businesses to accelerate their growth and highlight how the government can help. Over 500 individuals attended the Conference representing all sections of industry and were asked questions on the day around the challenges in exporting. Businesses stated that the main form of support they require is the provision of resources, such as market knowledge, additional finance or networking assistance. The firms interviewed prioritised a particular type of resource: senior individuals typically based in the target market, who had existing experience of the sector, along with a clear understanding of how the market worked and how business was done, with extensive networks and access to clients.
- Examples of best practice are available. In 2012 Enterprise Ireland established its Potential Exporters Division as part of the Irish Government’s Action Plan for Jobs. It involves a dedicated helpdesk, mentoring and advocate support, access to market information, workshops, seminars and training across the country, access to advice from successful exporters and access to a range of EI financial support.
– Ends –
For further information please contact:
Communications & Policy Manager
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce
Tel: 02890 244113 / 07808789163
Notes to Editor:
• Spokespeople available on request.
About NI Chamber of Commerce:
• Established in 1783, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce (NICC) represents of all sizes and sectors of businesses across Northern Ireland. This includes 69% of the top 100 and over 1,000 SMES from the manufacturing and business support services – representing 2/3 of the work force.
• NICC specialise in assisting businesses to grow through business networking, the provision of support programmes and influencing government policy.
• NICC is an accredited member of the world wide chamber network which enables us to support members to expand into new markets.
NI Chamber of Commerce export support:
• Export First Programme
An Economic Appraisal commissioned by Invest NI in 2010 identified that there is a gap in the support available particularly to non-exporters or early exporters and a lack of knowledge of the information available. In response to this Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Danske Bank were delighted to launch Export First in June 2011. The programme seeks to inspire innovative, creative and international business by having existing exporters showcase and share how they got into export, how they dealt the challenges and to share their international networks. Since its launch in July 2011 Export First has held 26 events; engaged 280 companies and provided an opportunity for 38 leading exporters to share their experiences.
• Connecting for Growth Programme
In 2014, NI Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, launched ‘Connecting for Growth’, a cross-border trade initiative designed to facilitate increased business between companies from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The first event will take place on 12 March 2014 and will match SME businesses directly with procurement teams from large buying organisations. The event series is open to any businesses – there is no restriction on size, sector or support already received through the public sector.
• Chamber Connections Initiative
Realising that growing export is very personal to individual businesses; Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce introduced Chamber Connections in summer 2013. The service utilises local Chamber contacts in offering businesses the prospect to meet and learn from other Northern Ireland companies who are already exporting and who have become experts in their field, as well as connecting them to chamber contacts from across the globe, who are able to advise and assist with breaking in to, and operating in, international markets.
• Export Documentation Service
NI Chamber’s export documentation service assists exporters to get products through customs overseas. The Chamber processes 10,000 documents per annum.
Why Northern Ireland needs to up its game on exports:
By Paul Gosling