A rising tide raise all boats, as the saying goes, and the Tall Ships’ visit to Belfast provided the perfect backdrop yesterday for the launch of a support programme aimed at expanding business across the province.
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell was on hand to launch the second phase of ‘NI Chamber Connections’, the business growth initiative from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) in partnership with Ulster Bank.
Launched on board the tall ship the Guayas, the private-sector led programme will assist businesses to develop and grow, whilst providing a vehicle for shared learning and new market development for those companies looking to grow via exporting.
Following a highly successful pilot phase through 2014/2015, the second phase of the programme will now include a series of regional events and web based support and will continue to link companies for advice locally and through the overseas network of Chambers, which has proved a valuable resource for companies who often don’t know where to access advice and information.
Jonathan Bell, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said:
“Creating an environment that encourages our local businesses to share their knowledge and experiences and better collaborate is greatly welcomed, particularly as we continue to meet the challenges of growing our economy by increasing our exports and our export base.
“Improving competitiveness through a focus on export-led economic growth is the key to increasing employment and prosperity and we need to extend our reach and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist across the globe.
“This is a great initiative which will enable business to grow and trade internationally.”
Stephen McCully, President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:
“NI Chamber Connections is a support programme aimed at businesses from across Northern Ireland who are ready to take the next steps in growing their business, may it be locally or internationally.
“The programme’s series of events will connect businesses seeking advice and support and enable peer to peer learning. Each event will focus on a specific issue or area of interest and will engage attendees in open discussion, encouraging them to share experiences and concerns relating to the themed topic.
“We are very grateful to Ulster Bank for making phase two of this programme possible through the provision of resources and expertise.”
Richard Donnan, Managing Director, Retail Banking and NI SME & CIB at Ulster Bank, said:
“We’re very pleased to be supporting the next phase of NI Chamber Connections – it’s an excellent initiative aimed at fostering international cooperation and providing an important resource for growth.
“Strong local exporters play an important role in the sustainable expansion and development of the private sector, and making it easier for them to break into new markets abroad has significant positive impacts on jobs and opportunities at home.”