Belfast Telegraph

Economic success is 'linked to a growing export base'

By Ann McGregor

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) is delighted to sponsor the Excellence in Exporting category in the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards.

NI Chamber is the network for business in Northern Ireland which enables members to grow their organisation both locally and internationally and drive the development of the economy.

As an accredited member of British Chambers of Commerce we are part of a wider network representing the interests of 104,000 business members which collectively employ almost five million people. This network also links us into the world-wide Chamber network in support of our export development activity.

NI Chamber also works on an all island basis with the Chamber Network in Republic of Ireland to develop all island trade.

NI Chamber is the only private sector business body to have developed an extensive range of export-focused services which include the Danske Bank Export First programme, NI Chamber Connections in partnership with Ulster Bank and Connecting for growth in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK.

A key aspiration for NI Chamber is to work alongside Government, including Invest NI and councils, to contribute to Northern Ireland's economic recovery by helping businesses, particularly SMEs, to move successfully into export markets. NI Chamber's export programmes are unique because they are private sector led and engage existing exporters to inspire and support non or early exporters.

Northern Ireland's future growth prospects as a regional economy are inextricably linked with its ability to grow the size of its export base. The benefits are profuse. It is one of the main ways in which Northern Ireland can start to reduce its over dependence on the public sector and address Northern Ireland's low level of productivity vis-à-vis other UK regions.

Trading internationally provides links to fast growing economies as well as improving the local skills and knowledge base and providing a more attractive environment for foreign direct investment. Where internal demand is weak, as has been the case here for some time now, exports can help accelerate recovery.

Despite some excellent success stories and achievements in export markets, Northern Ireland's export base remains small with only 1,560 exporters down from 1,700 in 2009. The region is also heavily dependent on a few large firms. A total of 10 manufacturers account for 50% of exports. Goods exports fell again last year (-1%) and Northern Ireland is the only UK administration not to recover its 'pre-recession' export value.

Furthermore, Northern Ireland's exports are focused on a small number of markets, largely the Republic of Ireland, the USA and Canada. However, the potential to grow the number of exporters in Northern Ireland is huge and NI Chamber's involvement in this category is designed to inspire more businesses to celebrate export achievements.

Our successful exporters have shown what can be achieved by having ambition, drive and excellence at the heart of their businesses in order to excel in export markets - many others can learn from their experience and example.

The gala awards dinner will take place on April 30, 2015, at the Culloden Hotel. A table of 10 is £900+Vat and individual places are £100+Vat. For further info or to book a table contact Sarah Weir (JPR) on or 028 9076 0066.

Ann McGregor is Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive

Belfast Telegraph