Antrim businesses, Clearlift Material Handling Ltd, Fast Engineering and Texthelp Ltd were recognised as InterTradeIreland Business Ambassadors at a special ceremony in Parliament Buildings recently.
The event, which was hosted by Alastair Ross MLA, Assembly Private Secretary for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, recognised 35 firms that had successfully embraced innovation, developed new cross-border markets or secured venture capital with InterTradeIreland’s support.
Between them, the 35 firms have generated at least £15m in additional business value to the economy so far.
Clearlift Material Handling Ltd supplies new and used forklift trucks and material handling equipment to the private and public sectors in Northern Ireland, with several contracts for equipment in GB.
Established in 1981 Fast Engineering Ltd manufactures FASTANK®, a patented liquid storage container for use in a number of niche markets including oil and chemical spill clean-up, aid relief, fire fighting, military, fish farming and animal rescue. The company exports to more than 85 companies around the world.
Texthelp Ltd provides assistive software to education, corporate and English-speaking markets. The market leader in its field, the company remains at the forefront of innovative software development, supporting those with dyslexia and literacy difficulties.
Speaking at the event, Mr Ross said: “It has been the drive, ambition and innovative nature of our entrepreneurs and businesses that has been integral in getting the local economy on the road to recovery.
“The trading environment over the last few years has not been easy so I am particularly heartened by the success stories of these firms and their tenacity to be able to push through this rough period into the positive business environment that is currently emerging.
“To continue to grow our economy, we must help more businesses to be export-led and internationally competitive.
“I am encouraged by the contribution made by both InterTradeIreland and the companies here today in striving to achieve this goal.”
Commenting on their Business Ambassador nominations, Jonathan Savage of Clearlift Material Handling, said: “The Acumen Programme has given us opportunities to broaden our customer base and reach new markets in the Republic of Ireland where we have rapidly increased our sales.
“The market research showed us the potential we had to supply excellent quality products to this market at very competitive prices.
“We are delighted to have been chosen to be a Business Ambassador and look forward to the future working alongside other SMEs.”
Seamus Connolly, Managing Director of Fast Engineering, said: “Participating in the Challenge Programme sharpened our marketing presentation by giving our global customer base ‘reason to believe’ in us and our products.
“It also added a repeatable logic to our R&D processes which has reduced cost and time to market of more than 50%. When we consider a new innovation project, we remember the learning from the Programme – ‘Risk Little, Fail Cheap’.
“Being chose as a Business Ambassador gives our FASTANK® team great pride. The credibility it brings will enhance our standing in overseas markets, particularly in North America.”
Also speaking at the event, Margaret Hearty, director of programmes and business services at InterTradeIreland said: “We have supported businesses from a diverse range of sectors right across Northern Ireland, in every county and constituency and we are extremely proud of their achievements.
“These firms represent many of Northern Ireland’s most resilient and ambitious SMEs that are a testament of what can be achieved through enterprise and innovation.
“It is important that we recognise their success which we hope in turn will inspire other businesses to seek the support needed to develop and take their business to the next level.”