Posted on Friday 10 January 2014 by Ulster Business

Chamber mark

NI Chamber of Commerce President Mark Nodder says it will continue to focus on helping local firms to increase export sales in 2014.

Do you expect 2014 to be a better year for your members than 2013?

Business prospects for our members are generally positive for 2014. The latest NI Chamber Quarterly Economic Survey released at the start of January 2014 revealed that around three-fifths expect slight growth in their business during 2014 and 15% anticipate strong growth. Over half of our members (52%) are planning on recruiting more staff, 62% intend to make new investment in their product and almost three quarters (73%) envisage they will target new markets in 2014.

What gives you cause for optimism about the future?

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce membership continues to grow. The businesses that join us have renewed ambition. After three years of recession they are leaner, cost efficient and more outward looking. We are very optimistic that exports will grow as a result.

What one thing would most help our businesses to thrive and achieve success?

Many Northern Ireland businesses still underrate their skills, their talent and the quality and innovation of their products and services. The Chamber would encourage them to be confident because they have the potential to be the best in the world. More businesses must follow the lead of companies such as Bombardier, Chesapeake, Fast Tank, Moy Park and Niche Drinks.

What is the greatest challenge facing businesses here?

Increasing access to finance for growth continues to be one of the most important issues for our members. Companies here are still finding it difficult to access finance for faster growth especially in exports. This is an issue for both banks and businesses and both need to change - we're in a new lending environment. The early successes achieved by Whiterock Capital demonstrate that with some risk and the appropriate support measures then some deals can be done.

Is there any one issue that you think will dominate the headlines this year?

Problems in the eurozone remain a major challenge for our exporters, especially given the recent record deficit with the EU. This shows there is a need to diversify our trade efforts towards other areas of the economy. Businesses want to drive the recovery, but the government must do more to help by introducing policies that will boost growth and by ensuring there is enough support for firms looking to export.

What are the top three issues your organisation will be focusing on in 2014?

In 2014 we will continue to focus on inspiring export and we will launch a new UKTI supported initiative with the world-wide Chamber network to support trade. We will also be prioritising access to finance and encouraging innovation. The Chamber will also pursue the devolution of Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland following the Scottish Referendum. By addressing these issues it is possible to achieve not just a good recovery, but a truly great and sustainable one.



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