Belfast Telegraph

Our intrepid exporters prove worth of broadening business horizons

By Margaret canning

The message from Northern Ireland's recent export triumphs is that there are no limits to how far away from the auld sod you should aim to take your products or concepts.

The drive to boost our economy through exports is more urgent than ever, particularly as figures for 2010/11 showed a fall in exports of 0.6% to £5.1m - though sales to Great Britain were up 4.4% to £7.3bn.

But the tide could turn this year. In the past few months we've seen export deals embracing the Netherlands (Total Mobile), Hong Kong (Fivemiletown Creamery) and Saudi Arabia (Muldoon Transport Systems).

Now CEM Systems has announced export deals worth £650,000 to Mongolia. Not Outer Mongolia, that fabled region that's only beaten by Timbuktu in far-flungedness in the mind's eye, but its modern-day counterpart, Mongolia.

The company is providing security systems to a copper and gold mine in South Gobi.

CEM Systems senior director Andrew Fulton said his message to companies was to "get out and travel" as opportunities at home in the UK were thin on the ground.

As if to prove his point, he is off to New Zealand next week.

It's not just security systems which we are exporting. Cuisine exported from Mexico via Philadelphia, then home to Northern Ireland has been feeding Northern Ireland students and many others besides since 2007.

The founders of Boojum, husband and wife couple John and Karen Blisard, met in Philadelphia before moving home to Northern Ireland. There was no equivalent of the fast Mexican food outlets they'd seen back in the US so they established the first Boojum in Botanic Avenue in south Belfast in 2007, a tortilla's throw from Queen's University and the studentsvilles of Stranmillis and the Holylands.

The Boojum concept has now been exported across the border, with one restaurant opening in Dublin. Fans of Mexican food across Ireland will now be eagerly awaiting the next spot to be Boojumed up. Could an extended franchise operation be the next step? Watch it grow.

This week we were reminded of one of our biggest exporters when Powerscreen International founder Pat O'Neill was interviewed in the Press.

Set up in 1966 and sold to Terex in 1999, Powerscreen is a past winner of Invest NI's exporter of the year title and a reminder of what Northern Ireland is capable of.