Northern Ireland companies need to tap into the global multi-billion pound market in airport -related contracts.
That was the message from John Green, chair of the British Aviation Group (BAG), which embarked on its first visit to the region yesterday.
Mr Green is from Northern Ireland and was educated at Methodist College and Queen's.
BAG has 185 member companies of all sizes and the organisation's primary role is to help UK companies win business in airport and aviation developments in the UK and overseas and to help clients identify UK suppliers of goods and services that will meet their requirements.
Member companies have won contracts in the 60 busiest airports worldwide. There are three member companies in Northern Ireland – construction firm Lagan Holdings, which has worked on many major airports, CEM Systems which makes security products for facilities around the world, and environmental consultants RSK.
With Northern Ireland already being promoted as a hub for aerospace supply chain companies thanks to Bombardier's major production facility in Belfast, Mr Green said that companies here have a huge opportunity to tap into the £3.5bn per annum spend by UK airports and airlines.
Speaking ahead of a regional networking reception at the Titanic centre, he added that he hoped to set up a regional cluster of BAG companies in future.
"The UK market alone is a multi-billion pound market," he said. "Gatwick Airport, Manchester Airport Group and Heathrow Limited are expected to spend millions on capital projects over the next few years.
"Rather than thinking about local airports, like Belfast International, George Best Belfast City and City of Derry, companies need to look further afield," he said.
"I am convinced that this is a sector we can help to grow and that will be fantastic to see during difficult financial times."