FOOD companies in six Council areas in the South-East are set to benefit from a new business development programme designed to assist artisan and small businesses in the food sector. Launched this week, thirty-six small companies from the food sector will received intensive business development support over the next two years, and will work closely together to develop new products and expand into new markets. [caption id="attachment_36205" align="alignleft" width="390"] Cllr Anne McAleenan, Chair Cultural and Economic Development Committee, Down District Council; Amanda Ferguson, Dundrum Inn, Dundrum; Cllr Mickey Coogan Chairperson Down District Council; Aideen Breenan, Economic Development Initiatives Manager; (back row) Adam Kelly Leggygowan Farm, Ballynahinch; Mark Bleakney Invest NI Southern Regional Manager; Nick Lestas, Lestas Consulting and David Patterson, Economic Development Manager, Down District Council.[/caption] Councillor Mickey Coogan, Down District Council Chairman, said: “The food sector in the region is a big success story, and is performing really well against the difficult conditions of the economic downturn seen in other sectors of the economy” . “We need to continue to do more to assist smaller, specialised, quality local businesses to develop and market their high quality products both here and in export markets. The opportunity for small food businesses to realise their potential is enormous, and we aim to help companies develop the right skills and knowledge to their best advantage, and for the long term benefit of our local economy.” Mark Bleakney, Invest NI’s Southern Regional Manager, said: “The food sector is one of the most important sectors within our economy. This programme will help local companies to successfully compete for business outside Northern Ireland and focus on the markets that offer the greatest export potential.” The Food To Follow Programme is supporting 36 local companies recruited from across the South Eastern Economic Development (SEED ) area and follows on from a previous highly successful business development programme for small businesses in the food sector. Led by Down District Council on behalf of SEED Councils, the Food to Follow Programme will be delivered across the council areas of Ards, Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down and Newry and Mourne. The appointed delivery agents, Lestas Consulting and their expert team, will deliver a programme of seminars, events and business mentoring for food companies in the SEED area. In addition to the 36 core participating companies, twelve larger companies will also provide industry- based support to the smaller companies. The programme will also establish a wider collaborative food network allowing other interested companies to attend some of the programme events designed to develop the food, tourism and hospitality industry in the SEED area. Companies in the SEED Councils areas of Ards, Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down and Newry and Mourne interested in being part of this wider network can get more information by contacting Nicholas Lestas the Managing Agent; Lestas Consulting on 028 7032 2900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.lestasconsulting.com. : Councils’ funds have been generously matched by grant funding provided by the DETI EU Funds under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland. Focusing on the development and growth of smaller food companies the SEED Food to Follow programme, will also provide important input into a major European transnational project ‘Local Food as an Engine for Local Business’ which aims to identify best practice in business support for small companies in the food and tourism sectors. Down District Council has partnered with the University of Ulster Business School and has already provided evidence on the needs of smaller businesses to the new Agri-Food Strategy Board in Northern Ireland with the aim of developing policy improvements to best realize the potential of dynamic smaller businesses in the food sector.
* * *The programme will run throughout 2013 and 2014 and will: * Provide expert input on a range of topics relevant to individual company development in the food sector * Support new product development * Investigate new markets locally and for early export * Build support and supply chain links with larger food sector businesses in Northern Ireland * Identify collaborative opportunities between participating businesses * Develop links between local food producers and local hotels and restaurants, strengthening local food as part of the tourism experience * Build sustainable networks / clusters for future competitive advantage.
* * *Invest Northern Ireland works with individuals, companies and organisations in manufacturing and tradable services which show the ambition and commitment to grow by being more innovative, more entrepreneurial and more internationally focused. Invest NI’s full range of support and services are delivered through local offices in Belfast, Coleraine, Ballymena, Craigavon, Londonderry, Newry, Enniskillen and Omagh, and an international office network.]]>