Economic development agency Invest NI has said it has dealt with 35,500 calls from firms needing help with Brexit and Covid-19 over the past year.
In end of year results today, the agency said call volumes were up six-fold on usual levels, with its team at one point responding to 400 a day.
Chief executive Kevin Holland said companies had shown “resilience” during 2020/21, the final 12-month period of the agency’s four-year plan.
However, the pandemic did hit the 2020 performance of 1,700 firms which receive intensive support from Invest NI.
According to the results, the firms lost £0.4bn in overall sales during 2020, and £0.9bn in export sales.
Mr Holland said the agency had still managed to meet four-year targets in four out of five categories. Figures are not yet available for growth in expenditure in research and development in 2019 and 2020.
Mr Holland said: “Lockdown clearly took its toll on the local, national and global economies with the single year 2020 outturn figures showing a decline on previous years.
“However, even in the midst of the pandemic challenges and EU exit uncertainties, many NI businesses demonstrated their resilience and ability to respond to last year’s economic challenges.
“We shared expertise and made over 3,000 offers of financial assistance during 2020-21 to support businesses to make strategic investment and growth commitments.
"These commitments ranged from job creation, investment in R&D or skills, or exports to new markets. Our £106m of support can generate £582m of investment into the local economy.”
The report does not include any statement on the impact of the NI Protocol. The agency promotes the potential benefit of dual access to the GB and EU markets under the protocol in brochures targeting international investors.
A spokeswoman said today’s report was an update on its performance to support businesses and that the protocol was not a support measure.
The agency also administered £6m funds to 443 businesses under nine Covid recovery schemes of its own. It also delivered £100m to over 13,100 applicants to five of the Executive’s emergency recovery schemes, including the Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme.