DRIVE FOR EXPORT SUCCESS TAKES CENTRE STAGE
Companies will not only survive but grow if they are willing to compete in an increasingly globalised economy, the Marches LEP's first major event for businesses heard.
Helping SMEs to begin trading internationally was the focus of The Marches Exporting for Growth, which attracted more than 100 delegates representing businesses from diverse sectors in the region.
The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership event last Friday, hosted by Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, heard from export specialists from UK Trade & Industry as well as five speakers from companies at different stages of their international trade programme.
Chairman of the LEP, Dr Geoffrey Davies OBE, told businesses: “If we can get 100,000 new businesses to start exporting, that would have a tremendous effect on the UK trade deficit.
“We have a job to do in the Marches to build our business base. Around 86 per cent of companies here are SMEs, employing fewer than ten people. We want to get them exporting and this will create more jobs for our region.”
Dr Davies also spoke of his own experience of international trade as managing director of McConnel, the Ludlow-based manufacturer, and founder of Alamo Group Europe.
“Export is of vital importance for the good of business, the economic development of the Marches and indeed for the balance sheet of the whole of UK Ltd. We operate in a global marketplace and every business has the means to market its products or services all over the world.”
Simon MacVicker, managing director of Bridgnorth Aluminium, told the event that export should be an essential part of business.
He said: “The world economy is increasingly globalised. The barriers to entry are coming down and that makes it easier for us to export. In order to survive we have to get into the world economy and compete with everyone else.
“Our experience is that by selling to the world's leading customers and competing against world class suppliers, we ourselves have learned what it means to become world-class. Our UK sales have dipped, but our ability to export has allowed us to grow, without exports Bridgnorth Aluminium would not have survived.”
Mr Dunne, who was instrumental in launching the Marches event, told companies to make the most of the national headline events happening in 2012.
“This is Olympic year and Shropshire has a particular claim to this with the Much Wenlock connection. There is a fantastic opportunity for British business to take advantage of the Olympics and the Jubilee,” he added.
Doug Mahoney, UKTI international trade director for the West Midlands, gave delegates an overview of the National Export Challenge under way to increase the number of UK companies exporting by 100,000 by 2020.
“Exports are increasing around 10 per cent year on year. We have to increase the number of SMEs interested in exporting and importing, and we have to help our existing successful exporters look to new markets and expand their export pace.
“It is not the Government or UKTI which will achieve this, it is businesses themselves which will achieve this. Research has clearly shown that companies involved in international trade develop higher levels of productivity, they introduce more innovation, they conduct more research and development and create long term sustainable employment.”
The event at Ludlow Racecourse was organised by Shropshire Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the LEP.
Chamber managing director Richard Sheehan said: “We are delighted by the attendance at the event, it is fantastic to see so many companies either looking to launch exports or extend into new markets. We know that businesses which attended found the event extremely useful, offering practical advice and guidance to companies while raising awareness of the support which is available to them.”
Delegates heard about the export experiences of Craven Arms-based Brit Part, from managing director Paul Myers and new exporter Mutneys Professional Petcare, from director Stephanie Roberts.
Colin Sinclair, from award-winning start-up The Whisky Tasting Company, spoke about his recent trade mission to Japan with UKTI as he prepares to launch his product overseas, only 18 months after setting up in business