This week is Export Week.
This is something which is essential if Britain is to raiseour standard of living and have more and better paid jobs. We need to sell more to the rest of the world.
In many ways, our part of the world is in a strong place when it comes to selling to overseas markets.
The Industrial Revolution was built on the back of exporting great goods to the world. West Hartlepool had the third biggest port in the UK, at a time when Britain had an astonishing 20 per cent of all manufacturing output in the world.
But this is not confined to the past. The North-East is the only region in the country that can boast of a trade surplus – every other part of the country imports more goods into its area than it exports out. We have strong companies in the region like Nissan – that single company constitutes about one and a half per cent of all manufacturing exports from the UK.
However, the export market is not solely dominated by large players: many small and medium-sized enterprises are taking up the export challenge and selling overseas.
Building on those past and present successes, the region still needs to export more.
Firms that export are generally more innovative, spend more of their revenues on research and development, employ higher skilled staff and pay more in wages to those staff as opposed to non-exporting firms.
It’s exactly the sort of modern company we want to see in this country: outward looking, competitive, with an emphasis on being responsive to the customer and paying high wages.
And Hartlepool companies can certainly do that – the town’s companies can hold their own with the best not just in this country, but around the world.
I think it can be a bit daunting to think about exports as a firm.
Many questions can go around a managing director’s head when he or she is thinking about selling overseas. What on earth are the rules, laws and regulations in the country I want to sell? What happens if I don’t speak the language? How do I know I’m going to get paid, especially if I might have to spend money to invest in new machinery or capability prior to making the product or service and won’t get paid for some time?
This is where I think Government has to give more priority to thinking about exports.
I agree with the Government when it said at the start of its time in power that we should as a country try to get to $1 trillion of exports by 2020.
It now looks that we are not going to get anywhere near that figure, possibly because of a lack of a pro-active, joined approach.
We as a nation are missing a trick in the high growth areas of the world, and our rivals like Germany and France are getting there and making contacts before us.
I think exporting matters to Hartlepool. We have huge strengths in certain parts of the economy, particularly in terms of engineering and high value manufacturing.
We have small and innovative firms that are carrying out a wide variety of different services.
By thinking about selling not just within the town, or even within the region or country, the possibilities for growth are enormous.
That would mean that a successful exporting business in Hartlepool could grow and thrive, taking on more workers and helping to address the problem of high unemployment and falling wages.
Thinking about exports is a win-win situation for Hartlepool firms and people in the town. I hope that companies can use the opportunity of Export Week to think about opportunities to sell Hartlepool products and services around the world.