With the loss of 1,000 jobs at Seagate on Thursday and the ongoing slowdown being experienced in sectors that have driven Northern Ireland’s economy in recent years, Henry Elvin’s comments are timely and important.
Ulster Bank’s head of business banking throws down the gauntlet to small and medium-sized enterprises to become more innovative and export-oriented.
As Mr Elvin says, there are numerous larger locally grown companies competing successfully in global markets who should provide an example.
The likes of Randox, Brett Martin and Wright Bus grew from small beginnings to become world-leaders in their fields. Mr Elvin says that the kind of ambition and commitment to innovation that has served these businesses well should be adopted by our smaller firms sector.
Much has been made of the impact the global liquidity crisis is having on business expansion, but there are encouraging words in this regard from Mr Elvin too who says that his institution is committed to supporting ambitious and dynamic local companies. This echoes a similar commitment from Northern Bank’s Kevin Kingston in recent weeks.
The fact is that foreign direct investment will be hard to come by for the foreseeable future and we can’t rely as heavily on Government money to fuel economic growth. Unlocking the potential of our SME sector is therefore hugely important and these businesses should get all the support they need.
The banks must keep lending and SMEs must become as innovative and ambitious as they can.