Business development · 27 June 2017

Could DUP deal give Northern Ireland enterprise the support needed?

Northern Ireland
Some 99 per cent of small business owners in Northern Ireland had failed to experience significant growth in the last year
As the Conservative Party seals its golden handshake with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), small businesses in Northern Ireland will be watching closely to see how local enterprise mightbenefit from the 1bn deal.

Prime minister Theresa May has said the money represented new investment” in Northern Ireland, alongside the 500m development fund already available. So, what can small business owners in Northern Ireland expect from the windfall, and where is it most needed?

With 150m already set aside to deliver super-fast broadband in the region, a further 400m has been marked for infrastructure investment, of which a major roads project in North Belfast is expected to be a priority.

For the remainder of the funds, new research has indicated where the money might best be placed.

According to findings in the Ulster Bank’s Boost Index, rapid growth? was experienced by only one per cent of small businesses in Northern Ireland in the past year.

The index took a wider look at the performance of small businesses in a range of sectors, with just 38 per cent of owners describing their business as ‘stable.

Two growth barriers were commonly cited by respondents Brexit and the collapse of the Stormont Assembly.

Workforce expansion is also a problem for growing companies. The country’s small population of 1.5m means a limited pool to recruit from.

Northern Ireland is more dependent on farming than the rest Britain, and greater support could be expected for independent growers and suppliers in this parliament. Agriculture was identified by DUP leaders during discussions as a critical? policy area.

However, the biggest issue uncovered by the survey was the narrow market for companies to operate in. Some 78 per cent claimed high competition was a major obstacle to business growth.

Strong domestic competition placed even further emphasis on the need for small businesses in Northern Ireland to make progression on trading overseas.

According to the index, just seven per cent were exporting to countries outside the UK and Ireland. Overall, under a fifth were selling to England, Scotland and Wales.

With international markets more accessible than ever, boosting exporting power could become a vital revenue stream for entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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