Northern Ireland's businesses urged to join forces with the public sector
Business in Northern Ireland must work more closely with government to help the economy grow.
Those were the words of Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, who said that while the priority lies with government to support industry, the private sector must be willing to reciprocate.
He was speaking at a First Trust business breakfast in Belfast, where Gareth Hetherington, an economist at the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy, said the focus of both government and business should be on boosting exports.
"The opportunities for economic growth here lie largely with local industry and in export markets in particular.
"We understand that there remain significant challenges to exporting here, particularly among our large SME base, but this is where the economic opportunities are and therefore where government policy makers must focus their attention."
Mr Hetherington's comments come on the day the Republic's government said it will make a clean exit from its European Union bailout at the end of the year without any need for an overdraft.
That's good news for Northern Ireland as cross-border trade represents our biggest export market at £1.3bn. And while the devolution of corporation tax-setting powers should help boost Northern Ireland's competitive edge in overseas markets, he says that reform should be high on government's agenda.
"We also need to think creatively about energising the private sector, whether through the roll-out of capital expenditure infrastructure projects or considering new ways in which the private sector can help deliver public services."
Gerry McGinn, Regional Executive Director First Trust Bank agreed.
"What is required is a focus on the things that can make most difference in the short term and a collective energy across the private, public and voluntary sectors to deliver the necessary changes that will increase our competitive advantage and encourage more businesses to export."
Value of Northern Ireland's annual exports to the Republic