Pioneering Export Network launches

19 March 2013

More than 100 businesses took part in the launch of the We Are International Export Network which is pivotal to a new campaign to bring more than £2.6bn exports into the Leeds City Region in the next five years.

Current and potential exporting businesses from across the commercial spectrum attended the network’s inaugural meeting at the offices of global law firm, DLA Piper, in Leeds this week (Tuesday March 12) or took part through video conference links from Bradford and York.

The Export Network is a group of experienced exporters from a wide range of industry sectors who will act as ambassadors, champions and mentors in the We are International campaign,  an initiative by Leeds Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), UKTI and  Chamber International to boost the Leeds City Region economy by improving exporting performance, particularly beyond the EU to larger, growing economies such as China, India and  the USA.

Proven exporters, including Eric Hawthorn, managing director of Radio Design Ltd, Shipley; co-founder of Trio Healthcare Ltd, Skipton John Chacksfield, who holds a Queens Award for Export and self-confessed ‘exportaholic’, Neil Park,  commercial sales director at Lighthouse Automotive, Leeds, described their export experience and their commitment to providing practical help to potential exporters.

Meanwhile director of the Centre for International business, Leeds University, prof Jeremy Clegg, who specialises in research and teaching of international business about European integration, emerging markets and China described how his work and experience is an invaluable resource for exporters.  

LEEDS LEP has launched the We Are International  campaign to boost local economies within the Leeds City Region local authority areas which includes Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Wakefield, Kirklees, Barnsley, Selby, York, Harrogate and Craven.

Eric Hawthorn, a pivotal figure in the Export Network, said that, in spite of the benefits from overseas sales, Yorkshire is a poor exporter. He said: “The Leeds city Region is currently running a £1bn trade deficit for its products and services which this campaign aims to turn into a £1.6bn surplus by 2018.

“Two thirds of businesses do not even have exporting as part of their growth strategy but research shows that exporting businesses are generally more successful and resilient than those who do not.”

John Chacksfield, who co-founded Trio Healthcare Ltd, which manufacturers silicone medical devices and exports 75 per cent of its turnover, said that exporting had helped the business, which had only nine staff, to quickly build up a multi-million pound turnover and attract an international buyer only six years after its launch.

He said that while Chamber International and UKTI had been ‘hugely important’ to Trio Healthcare’s success, in retrospect he wishes he had sought professional support earlier.

The launch was also attended by two visiting Canadian trade advisers, Valerie Strand and Tish Nicolls who said that Canada offers a potentially large market for Leeds city Region exporters with the right product or service.

Would-be and novice exporters who attended were enthused by the help available. Director of international design and marketing communications business Glo, South Yorkshire, Sarah Brabbin, said: “I work with a number of SME's who export and have done a little myself in the Netherlands and Jamaica.

“I came along because I'd like to explore the opportunities exporting provides and I was really impressed how open and helpful all the speakers were. You really feel they can help you succeed.”

Meanwhile, women’s swimwear designer and manufacturer, Nikki Cooke, of Nikki Cooke Design, Malton, says: “I launched three years ago and am selling into the UK market and have a branded on-line shop and am interested in taking the business overseas.

“I’ve spoken with the Department for Trade and Industry and my local chamber of commerce and came here to learn more about what’s involved. I feel ready to move into exporting and seeing the help available here has given me the confidence to do so.”

Fahid Ben-Ahmed, technical sales director of Bradford-based Medical Instruments (UK) Ltd which manufactures stainless steel surgical instruments, added: “We were founded about 18 months ago and have already exported to Dubai and The Middle East but want to do more.

“We have keen interest form the Far East and using services such OMIS,W through UKTI, we have developed clients in Thailand. To be more successful overseas we’ll need to find distributors and events like this are really useful for pointing you in the right direction. It is good that everyone is so happy to help.”

Geoff Lane and son Andrew, from Harrogate-based Scinomed Ltd, have developed a medical device used for automated plasma collection by the bio-pharmaceutical industry. Geoff Lane said: “We have spent the first four years creating our products and obtaining the correct registration licenses and CE marks for Class II medical products which is time consuming.

“I have export experience with similar products for another company but this is the first time in our own right. Clearly, the chance to obtain help from someone such as John Chacksfield, who works in a similar field, will be really useful to us.”

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