EFFORTS to close the vast trade gap between the North East and our Norwegian neighbours are picking up pace with an event for companies keen to export to Scandinavia.
Hydroelectric power plant builder Rainpower, formerly part of the giant General Electric group, is coming to Newcastle with business worth around £20m to hand out. The company wants to meet North East firms able to set up a specialist engineering and fabrication equipment supply chain.
Rainpower is a £50m turnover business, of which around half is subcontracted. The company is already working with suppliers in China and the Far East and contacted North East organisation Norway2UK to discuss opportunities with companies in the region.
The upshot is the meet the buyer event, which will be held at Dickinson Dees’ offices in Newcastle, on June 28.
Norway2UK managing director Mike Pedersen said: “It’s a £50m turnover company and £20m-£30m of that is subcontracted so essentially, it is up for grabs.
“We have a list of all the products we could sell to them, it’s everything from castings to fabrication to non-destructive testing.”
The event is being used as a launch pad for other meet the buyer days with Norwegian companies and Pederson is aiming to bring over “an oil and gas main player” next.
Norway exported goods – mainly oil, gas, metal and chemicals – worth 164bn NOK (£18bn) to the UK in 2009, but the UK only sent goods back worth £2.4bn to Norway.
Pedersen said: “There is an imbalance of trade between Norway and the UK. We buy loads in respect of oil and gas and we should be selling a lot more.”
The connections between the North East and Norway are particularly good, with a low-cost airline flight from Newcastle costing less than travelling to Leeds.
“A couple of months ago, we hired a plane and took 25 companies to Norway to meet companies there,” said Pedersen.
Norway2UK, which was set up at the Millennium and initially worked closely with One North East, helped to bring Norwegian offshore company Seadrill to Blyth back in 2006.
The next big opportunity for the region’s suppliers is likely to be with Norwegian firms exploiting the Arctic’s oil and gas.
“That’s going to be the new Klondike – the next boom area,” said Pedersen. “The Norwegians and the Russians have signed a treaty on who owns what. The exploration’s started and they’ve already got a couple of rigs up there. What we want to do is develop a relationship between the region and the Arctic.”
To register for the Rainpower event and find out what sort of products are required, go to www.norway2uk.com/en/events/rainpower/