NI Medium-sized Busineses Unsung Heroes of the Recovery

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New CBI research shows that medium-sized businesses (MSBs) are the unsung heroes of the economy having done much of the heavy lifting during the recovery, significantly contributing to jobs and growth across Northern Ireland and the UK.

Northern Ireland’s MSBs - firms employing 50–499 people, equivalent to a turnover of between £10 million and £100 million – support a quarter of jobs in Northern Ireland’s private sector economy, compared with a UK average of 20%.

1,000 businesses employ nearly 120,000 people, with revenues of £16 billion for 2012/13.
Across the UK the majority of these MSBs (82%) expect the national economy to improve over the next 12 months and 88% expect their own business situation to improve.

MSBs are already an integral part of the Northern Ireland economy. Despite only representing 1.5% of firms they employ 15% of the total workforce (including public sector) and create a significant 30% of the revenue. CBI research shows that with the right support these firms could be worth an additional £20 billion to the economy by 2020.

Nigel Smyth, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said:

“Medium-sized business are vital to Northern Ireland – employing thousands of people and contributing significant revenues to the local economy.

“These businesses are optimistic about the economy and with a small helping hand from the government their future growth potential could be even greater. With better access to a range of growth finance options, improved training, research support and help to break into new exports markets – they could be worth an extra £20 billion to the UK economy by 2020.”

The CBI’s recommendations include:

• The UK’s Business Bank should allocate funding through DETI and Invest NI to be applied though local delivery structures, as well as to leverage up European Investment Bank funds.
• Meanwhile, the Joint Ministerial Taskforce should be used as a key mechanism to ensure a full understanding of lending in Northern Ireland and the scale of the potential funding required to support the growth of MSBs
• DETI and DEL should take steps to promote and facilitate MSBs’ engagement with universities, including support for the Higher Education Innovation Fund as recommended by the Witty review and a higher profile for the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. UK Trade & Industry and UK Export Finance must do more to promote their services to firms at a local level, as most aren’t even aware that they exist.