International Trade Minister Shows Support for Dorset Exporters
Written by Lord Price
On my first UK regional visit I travelled to my home county of Dorset to hear first-hand from small businesses about the opportunities and challenges they face around exporting – and what government can do to help.
Unfortunately, the South West lags behind the rest of the country in terms of proportion of companies that sell overseas, but it’s seeing high level of export growth in the last couple of years particularly in the machinery, transport and manufactured goods sectors1. It’s a region with bags of potential: having the largest surface area of the nine English regions, with a population in the South West of 5.2 million, and over 220,000 businesses. In the year to June 2016 the value of South West exports rose by 9.6% from £14.39 billion to £15.77 billion; export growth has occurred in the South West’s traditionally strong European markets such as Germany (23.6%) and France (20.9%) as well as high growth markets such as South Korea (34.7%), Singapore (27.3%) and Mexico (25.5%)1.
Government campaigns, such as Exporting is GREAT, are crucial to help Dorset-based businesses seize the growing demand out there for British products and services. Exporting is GREAT is based on overcoming some of the cultural barriers to exporting that often discourage businesses from looking beyond the UK. Some businesses wrongly feel that there isn’t a market for their products, or that exporting is too difficult, or that there isn’t enough support. Interestingly enough, the motto on Dorset’s crest is “Who’s Afear’d” – but when it comes to exporting, no UK business should fear anything.
Companies like Sunseeker International, for example, who are based in the large natural harbour of Poole, have a worldwide network of over 80 retail and service locations and exports around140 yachts a year to more than 45 countries. As Britain’s largest superyacht builder, with over 90% of their business in exports, they are keen to not only remain competitive with market-leading products, but also to continue to develop the skills and technology needed for the longer term.
I also met the experienced e-exporter Harts of Stur, a fourth-generation family-run cookware business based in the beautiful North Dorset market town of Sturminster Newton. Each generation of the family has grown and steered the business in new and exciting directions. The company has worked closely with government as it transformed itself from a local supplier into a global one. DIT has helped the business achieve 58% growth in export sales over a two year period.
I stopped briefly at the Dorset Chamber of Commerce and had some lively discussions with our dedicated International Trade Advisors. They along with our regional teams play an important role in identifying UK companies who are eager to export, identifying companies’ skills gaps, and working with them to get their products overseas. I met with Dorset LEP to hear about how they promote local economic growth and prosperity whilst acting as a strategic gateway to funding through their Strategic Economic Plan, ‘Transforming Dorset’. The LEP also hosted a very informative roundtable with local exporting businesses.
The entire trip filled me optimism. There are many great local businesses throughout the UK and whilst not located in the traditional big cities, these businesses often produce the most quintessential British products that overseas customers crave. And what’s more, these businesses are full of ambition to serve customers across the world as well as the ones across the street. I am delighted that now more than ever there is an unprecedented level of support available to help them to help fulfil that ambition.