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Alternative sources of finance are 'key to SMEs'

Angela McGowan

Access to alternative financial structures can be the key that unlocks sustainable growth and profit, representatives of small and medium-seized businesses were told yesterday.

Hosted by the CBI with support from BDO Northern Ireland, the 'Funding For Sustainable Growth' workshop was designed to assist the companies to "identify and engage with new sources of financial support to aid growth plans".

The event heard from CBI's financial services expert Chris Wilford and from Downpatrick-based Lowden Guitars, which produces and exports handcrafted instruments throughout Europe, North America, Canada, Australia and the Far East.

In 2013 the company received financial support from the Growth Loan Fund and now employs 29 highly skilled workers.

Speaking at the event, CBI director Angela McGowan said: "SME businesses cannot fulfil their growth aspirations without access to finance.

"Through engagement with the Business Growth Fund and others we have been able to highlight to local businesses the increasing role that financial service companies play in helping them to deliver growth.

"There is no doubt that Brexit-related uncertainty is impacting upon firms' investment decisions across Northern Ireland, but simultaneously companies are being supported by strong global demand and low interest rates.

"The UK Government is determined that Brexit will not crowd out industry's competitiveness."

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