Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's manufacturers 'can learn from German counterparts'

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry should look to emulate the business model of Germany's Mittelstand in order to help expand and grow, the Economy Minister has said ahead of a trip there.

Mittelstand is the name given to Germany's large number of SMEs which are highly specialised, often family-owned and based largely in the manufacturing sector.

Simon Hamilton was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph ahead of his trip this week to promote Northern Ireland's own indigenous businesses, as well as learn from other companies in Germany.

He said that following the visit he intends to "outline how we hope to scale up more SMEs in terms of their turnover, employment levels and exports and our plan will draw directly on what I see in Germany".

"Whilst it is clear that the German economy is very different to ours in Northern Ireland in many ways, I firmly believe that there are similarities between our SMEs and the Mittelstand which we can build upon in order to help grow our economy," he said.

"I am keen to explore the cultural and structural reasons for this and see if they can be adapted and adopted in Northern Ireland."

Meanwhile, one top bank boss has said manufacturers here must be open to exploring new export markets in order to weather any potential impact of Brexit.

And Nial Douglas, area director of HSBC in Northern Ireland, said with a drop in the value of the pound "any Northern Irish business awaiting payment from euro-denominated or overseas payers are at risk of losing out". "Northern Irish manufacturers must be alive to the possibility of opening up new export markets," he said.

"There are a number of key processes to follow in order to make the most of those opportunities.

"As the only UK country to share a land border with a Euro-denominated nation, every manufacturer is likely to be well aware of the risks and rewards of exporting, particularly in the context of Brexit.

"The impact of the Brexit referendum result is still to be clearly understood, but currency-related issues run to the heart of many conversations we are having with clients.

"Trade cycles are more pronounced here anyway, but with the prevalence of trade into the Republic of Ireland, our manufacturers are likely to be more concerned than most."

Belfast Telegraph