Moving Down Under could put your business on top
Three entrepreneurs are heading a recruitment drive aimed at getting Northern Ireland companies to look beyond these shores and to the bright lights of Sydney and the possibilities of Australia
"Come on over and give it a try". Not an invite to the local pub for a pint, but to a country 10,000 miles away.
Recruitment drives for far-flung lands are nothing new - last month an information event hosted in Belfast by the the British Columbia Construction Association, on the hunt for skilled workers for Canada, was completely overwhelmed and had to begin an hour early.
But typically, the Aussies have a more laid-back approach to things.
Tony Eades, John Glover and Bill Elmer are the men behind Your Australian Business, a non-governmental organisation which aims to link firms in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic with key business contacts on the other side of the world.
Their agency is based in Sydney, New South Wales - Australia's financial centre with a population of 4m and home to 550 global companies. The trio were in Northern Ireland for the first time last week to speak to companies interested in branching out to Australia.
They all have different backgrounds - Tony specialises in marketing, Bill is in sales and John, a north London native, is involved in human resources and immigration issues.
But this is no normal job-sweep. Unlike the Canadian event, which was aimed at enticing relatively small numbers of individual workers to foreign shores, Your Australian Business offers a series of packages to help people to start, build or expand businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth.
The packages assist on issues like immigration, sales and marketing, premises, finance and legal advice, HR and back office support, relocation services, communications and networking.
Mr Eades said that with 10m people needed in Australia over the next 20 years - including 35,000 professionals needed from next year onward in the IT sector alone - the possibilities for growth are endless.
"We're an English-speaking country, we have a strong, robust economy, we have a low interest rate, the Australian dollar is strong, the country has been relatively unaffected by the downturn, our banking sector is strong, we need skilled workers and entrepreneurs and Australia is hugely SME friendly," he said.
"We're particularly interested in e-commerce, healthcare workers, mining, construction, manufacturing, engineering and financial services. The agricultural sector is also huge so for anyone making or supplying technology to that market, the opportunities are huge.
"Australia also offers a great springboard into Asian markets, so businesses can get to Australia, and then explore further onward expansion.
"This is a good time to sell products and export products. Asia accounts for 36% of the world's GDP and is the fastest growing market.
"Australia is a big country but we are not dominated by multinationals. We are still hugely driven by middle-market SMEs. And at the end of the day, there is no hostility to growth - Australia has been built on immigration, it's always been the way."
Mr Glover added: "In the UK and Ireland there is no more land but we've still got plenty of scope. We have so much space where other countries across Europe have run out of room. We are building whole towns and communities and business centres and everything that goes along with that, and we need people to help build that infrastructure, so at the basic level, we need construction workers and construction firms.
"We need bodies and we need jobs.
"Because these are new towns, everything is sustainable and ecological - those working in the sustainable, renewables or energy-saving sectors have great opportunities to sell their products.
"Another aspect is that Australia is a powerful piece of real estate. China is buying up huge areas of land to grow food to feed their people and cotton to clothe them - Australia will soon be feeding the world.
"Chinese ships are waiting at our harbours to take away coal from our mines. Some of the mines are not even open yet because they are waiting to recruit the right number of staff.
"The mining areas are self-contained towns where people live and work one week on, one week off, and they need staff from the washers-up in the kitchens to the mine managers.
"In North Queensland they are desperate for boiler makers for the mines, they put signs up advertising for workers. We understand that Northern Ireland has great skill in engineering and manufacturing, so there is a lot of potential there.
"The agriculture industry is also huge. Our beef industry is very strong. If you sell products to the beef market, that is a big area. If you want to grow food, our climate rises like a thermometer, you can grow anything.
"From Tasmania, where the climate is similar to the UK, right up to Darwin where it is summer all year round - so if you sell ice-cream or cold drinks, you could be on to a winner." Mr Elmer said that people should not be put off by the geographical distance of Australia.
"The world is a smaller place now, people don't need to be scared of the distance," he said.
"Technology makes things so much easier and rather than firms going off and doing their own fact-finding, which can take years, we can connect you to the right people, take you straight to the top and link you to credible expertise.
"Doing things alone, there will be a lot of pitfalls and obstacles and we can help guide you around those. We provide a nurturing environment, we want people to succeed in their businesses, we want people to export here and sell here, we want to create and protect jobs."
Added John Glover: "There's no harm in having a look.
"Come on over, have a holiday, see if you like it, speak to us, speak to the people you want to speak to. If you decide to set up a base here, excellent, or you might decide it's not for you. No worries."
Your Australian Business, the body which was in Belfast last week to try and attract Northern Ireland businesses to Australia, provides assistance with:
- Sales and Marketing
- Finance and legal advice
- HR and back office support
- Relocation services
Leading the charge
Northern Ireland firms who export to Australia:
- First Derivatives, Newry - software/consultancy
- TextHelp, Antrim - software
- Norbrook, Newry - veterinary products/drugs
- Munster Simms, Bangor - water, heating & waste pumping systems for marine and leisure industries