Belfast is to play host next month to two major conferences aimed at the small to medium sized business sector at home and abroad.
Between them, the two events are expected to attract more than 1,000 delegates from the SME sector worldwide.
Belfast beat off competition from Taiwan and other locations to be selected for the International Small Business Congress, attended by small to medium sized practitioners and policymakers from around the world, including the Far East and Europe.
And running in tandem from November 4 -7 at the Europa Hotel in Belfast will be the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference, an event aimed at academics involved in training entrepreneurs.
The securing of the two conferences for Belfast is the culmination of a campaign led by Professor Ken O’Neill, professor of enterprise and small business development at the University of Ulster, hosts of the ISBC.
A video was made by then-First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, inviting delegates to come and sample the city’s charms.
Prof O’Neill said the timing of the conference was significant: “This is the first major gathering of small business experts from across the world since the credit crunch began to take effect.”
Delegates are expected to present a ‘wish-list’ to the global financial institutions and governments, including a freeze on overdraft limits and bank borrowing arrangements for at least two years borrowings and, echoing concerns expressed by the British Government, suggest that financial institutions should be slow to repossess homes or other personal assets secured against businesses.
It will also call for the UK to adopt an EU scheme to reduce VAT on labour-intensive services to 17.5% from 7.5%. The delegates will consider why small to medium sized businesses prosper more in some countries than others.
Speakers at the conference sessions will include Padraic White, former managing director of the Republic’s Industrial Development Authority, Graham Davis, Invest NI director of entrepreneurship and local economic development, Jim Bell, professor of international business entrepreneurship at the university, and Aidan Gough, director of strategy and policy at InterTrade Ireland.
Prof O’Neill said policy makers needed to find the most successful ways of making small to medium enterprises work and to consider why a profusion of initiatives to help the sector were sometimes unsuccessful.