Belfast Telegraph

Why Northern Ireland firms should rise to export challenge

By Alastair Hamilton

Strong exporting industries form the backbone of our economy – strengthening our employment base and improving our ability to surmount recessions and downturns.

We need more businesses to export because that will bring more money into our economy and enable it to grow.

It's also important for businesses to expand their customer base to ensure sustain-able long-term growth. There is a limited market, and limited sales, within Northern Ireland, but a world of opportunity beyond. Currently over 60% of Northern Ireland exports are to Europe and Russia but we have seen a growth in exports to the emerging economies in Asia, India, South America and the Middle East.

Invest Northern Ireland offers a range of assistance both for first time exporters and for more experienced exporters.

We run workshops on developing export skills, we can help with market research and our market visit programme gives companies the chance to target opportunities around the world.

Exporting, like all business challenges, needs a structured approach. The first step is to create a product or service that people outside Northern Ireland want to buy. Then match the product to a specific export market. Develop a thorough knowledge of the target market; identify potential customers and make the approach. You need to approach exporting with a plan in order to succeed.

We work with hundreds of companies every year to help them take these first steps.

I'd encourage Northern Ireland businesses to step forward and take up this export challenge. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Belfast Telegraph