Lending to Northern Ireland's small businesses on increase, says bank
Lending to Northern Ireland's small business and agri-food sectors has surged in the past year, according to Bank of Ireland.
It has seen an increase of almost 17% in loans in the first nine months of 2015, compared to the same period last year.
The bank's figures were released as it launched Enterprise Week, which focuses on small and medium-sized firms.
More than 1,500 small businesses are involved in a Province-wide series of events, including finance clinics, seminars, networking sessions and business breakfasts.
Bank branches north and south will feature pop-up displays from companies in a bid to boost cross-border trade.
Sean Sheehan, regional director of consumer and small business at the bank, said: "Enterprise Week is taking place at a time when we continue to see confidence in the small business sector but recognise economic challenges remain. Some 40% of the accounts we're opening are for start-ups and more than 36% are for businesses who have been trading for over two years."
Proven Energy Solutions in Belfast is a client company taking part in Enterprise Week.
Set up in 2013, it supplies LED lighting to industry and is now exporting to the UK, North America, Africa and the Middle East.
Managing director Adrian Brown is a former electrician who spotted an opportunity to work with the public and private sector, both keen to minimise their carbon footprint and expenditure on energy. He said access to finance was key to cross-border and overseas growth
"We have new operations starting in San Francisco and Ghana but we're really focused on expanding our business in the Irish market," said Mr Brown.
"We have commercial finance to help our cash flow and to support our growth, while we're now in the process of talking to the global markets team to open a US dollar account for transactions to China."
And Mr Brown added: "We have new operations starting in San Francisco and Ghana but we're really focused on expanding our business in the Irish market. As we do that, it's going to be very helpful that we can have a bank account across the border to help facilitate this too."