As more Northants firms turn to exporting, we need easier access to export advice

Our latest Quarterly Economic Survey results, which were published at the beginning of April, highlighted a growing trend in Northamptonshire when it came to exporting. For the fourth consecutive quarter, the number of companies in the county exporting went up – which is great news for the Northamptonshire economy.

Whilst exporting is a growing trend locally, we mustn’t be complacent. We need even more Northants companies to realise the potential rewards and take the leap and export for the first time, and to do this, they need the right support.

Northamptonshire Chamber’s dedicated International Trade Team, which works closely with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), helps many companies of all shapes and sizes every day; offering advice over the telephone, international credit checks, translations, a drop-in surgery and the processing of the vital documentation and certificates needed to export products abroad. It also facilitates a ‘buddy scheme’ in which it ‘match-makes’ companies entering or dealing with particular territories with an organisation who has already been through this experience, enabling them to share knowledge and best practice with each other. In the last year alone, our International Trade Team issued thousands of documents which enabled shipments with a combined value of £1/4 billion to leave the country. This is a huge and significant boost to our local economy.

In February, after it was announced that the Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber ceased trading, we issued a statement, reaching out to any members of Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber who had export queries or needed their export documentation processing as a matter of urgency. We didn’t want members of Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber to feel unsupported and out on their own – after all, prior to this closure, we were all part of a nationwide, British Chambers accredited network and wanted them to feel that they still had that backing and support. Since then we have helped many businesses – at a members rate - who have come forward to take us up on our offer, reiterating that businesses need to know where to access that support to export successfully.

Prior to that, we were able to invite some of our members to a round table meeting with Lord Green, Minister for Trade and Investment. During the meeting, Lord Green discussed his aim of boosting the number of SMEs that export and getting those considering exporting for the first time to enter new international markets. By coincidence, acs Office Solutions, who were sitting at this round table, had just been approached by a client in Uganda who wanted to purchase office furniture from them. The meeting made the company view this contract differently, as a start to expanding into international markets and exporting, rather than a one-off project. Acs worked closely with our International Trade Team to export, deliver and install 50 workstations into the office in Uganda and now plans to export further.

Understanding the various finance options, paperwork you need, export and customs procedures can also be daunting and often put people off exporting altogether. Attending a training course to get your head around these can be very cost effective and minimise the risk of any costly mistakes.

There is also help available to businesses when it comes to researching new international markets. UKTI regularly arranges trade mission visits or can carry out market research on a company’s behalf if required. In fact, from Monday 13 May - Friday 17 May 2013, UKTI is hosting Export Week - High Growth Markets, which aims to offer free advice on how to go about doing business almost anywhere in the world, especially the fast-growing markets of Asia and Latin America. As part of this week, there will be a series of free events taking place in the East Midlands focusing on doing business in Portugal, China, India and Latin America.

Once you are exporting and making a success of it, why not shout about it from the rooftops? You could publish case studies about completed projects or enter specialist awards, such as the Exporter of the Year and Excellence in International Trade categories in the Chamber Awards. If you win, or even make the final, these can generate a huge amount of positive PR for your company and show you as an expert in this field.

This positive upturn in terms of exports is encouraging. I have long been an avid supporter of exporting and believe that it can literally open a whole new world to almost any type of organisation. So, why not have a go?

To keep up to date with all of the latest exporting news, follow our International Trade Team on Twitter @NhntChambExport

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