As exports continue to play a vital role in the North East’s economy, the search is on find the companies making the most of overseas markets.
In the 12 months leading to June 2013, the region exported more than £12.8bn worth of goods and services throughout the world.
And with early signs of an economic pick-up on the horizon, it seems likely that figure could increase significantly during the coming year.
The North East Business Awards, run by The Journal and The Evening Gazette with support from NECC, will again seek to acknowledge North East firms in Tyneside and Northumberland, Durham and Wearside, and Teesside, that have directed their capabilities towards developing strong trade and contracts outside of the UK.
Last years winner of the Export Award was Sunderland’s Velocity, which is saving councils and local authorities across the vast sums of money, while reducing road repair times with its wide array of products.
The firm has developed an innovative mend and preservation service that provides a cost-effective, sustainable and quick method of extending the life of road infrastructure.
Velocity, which has been operating in the North East for nearly 20 years, also manufacturers its own specialist vehicles to undertake projects worldwide.
Managing director, Dominic Gardner, said: “We are actively looking at new markets overseas; authorities must look at better ways to maintain infrastructure and our specialist equipment, focus on quality service and expertise in velocity patching is market-leading.
“We are very proud of our region and it is important to be part of a large network of North East businesses.
“Being part of the NECC keeps us informed of developments in our region and provides opportunities to promote our business and reach out to political stakeholders.”
Employing 60 staff directly and a further 40 indirectly in the UK, Velocity’s turnover is now around £9m and the company is forecasting an impressive 20% year-on-year growth.
Velocity will export 12 specialist machines this year after securing a contract with a Mexico-based partner to repair parts of the road infrastructure across South and Central America.
The company also distributes to markets in South Africa and the Middle East, and has developed a training programme to up-skill operatives overseas.
Velocity is likewise in discussions with many authorities across Europe that have expressed an interest in adopting it services.
NECC Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham, said: “Velocity is a real North East success story.
“Having established a domestic market for its fantastic products, it did not let borders between countries restrict its growth, setting out to tap into lucrative overseas markets.
“It is a great example to other regional firms looking to explore foreign marketplaces.”
This year, the Export Award is sponsored by Port of Tyne and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).
Port of Tyne is the UK’s fastest growing port and is the North East’s vital trading gateway to Europe and beyond.
With an award-winning International Passenger Terminal, it is the largest car exporter in the UK, the fourth largest for coal and Europe’s largest for wood pellet.
Investment in infrastructure of over £120m in 10 years has helped drive business and regional economic growth; the port now contributes almost £500m to the North East GVA, supporting 10,500 jobs.
Many of the UK’s leading blue chip companies rely on the Port of Tyne, including Nissan, Tetley Tea, Barbour, Tommee Tippee, JML and Ringtons, to provide a range of port services that ensure businesses get their products to market quickly and efficiently.
Susan Wear, the port’s director of corporate affairs, said: “Whilst our own business has been breaking records for three years in succession now, we are very proud that the partnership we have with our customers helps them to succeed and grow as well.
“It is important that the region continues to have a net export balance of trade and we hope that by providing first class service to businesses in the region, and supporting the Tyneside and Northumberland Business Award for Export, we are doing our bit to help.”
Through its dedicated team of International Trade Advisers, UKTI offers expert help and access to a range of services that assist companies in reaching overseas markets.
It also organises regular events and workshops covering everything from taking the first steps into new markets to more specialised events focusing on particular markets or industry sectors.
UKTI regional director for the North East, David Coppock, said: “The benefits of exporting have been proven time and again – companies involved in exporting boast increased productivity, greater resilience and a reduced reliance on the domestic market.
“Overseas markets offer a host of opportunities and there continues to be a strong demand for North East products.
“Next month we will once again be hosting Export Week and welcoming the ExploreExport roadshow, bringing our commercial experts from around the world to meet local businesses in a bid to encourage more companies to take up the export challenge.”
:: To nominate your business in this year's North East Business Awards go to www.nebusinessawards.co.uk. #NEBA2014