Campaign aims for Northern Ireland export growth

An event to inspire more businesses in Northern Ireland to launch, grow and export has been attended by over 500 small business owners in the country.

Spearheaded by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the event forms part of the 'Growing Something Brilliant' campaign that supports smaller businesses to move into new export markets.

The event challenged businesses to grow their local economy and included Q&A sessions with some of the country's biggest exporters.

  • Northern Ireland has the smallest business and employment base across the UK regions
  • It comprises of 114,000 private sector enterprises - two per cent of the UK total - and employs just over half a million people
  • The country's overall business population has fallen by 13 per cent since 2007 and it is one of only two UK regions where it is continuing to contract
  • The number of goods exporters has also fallen from a peak of 1,700 in 2009 to 1,400, falling faster than any other UK region.

Chamber of Commerce president, Mark Nodder, welcomed the event but admitted there is still a lot of work to be done.

"The responsibility for changing this economy for the better is down to us. Today we challenged businesses to help grow the local economy, and make Northern Ireland a special place better to live in, to work in and to visit."

Northern Ireland's minister for employment and learning, Stephen Farry, also attended the event, and identified skills as the 'crucial ingredient' for Northern Ireland's economic success.

"[...] If Northern Ireland is to compete on a global economic arena there must be a concerted effort to drive up skills on all fronts," he said.

"Of particular importance are the need to increase the number of people with higher level skills, management and leadership skills and people with skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM subjects."

He added: "If we are to make meaningful inroads into improving the skills of our workforce, it is clear to me that we need more of our employers to buy into the skills agenda."