An encouraging business success is being celebrated after £15 million has boosted the coffers of small companies.
A cross-border initiative, which included businesses from Down District, has generated the new sales over a three-year period.
Tradelinks 2, an EU-funded initiative, was designed to assist and grow the important micro enterprise sector across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal.
Janice Symington, Down Business Centre manager, said: “The main aim was to assist 550 micro businesses on both sides of the border to identify and address barriers to cross border trade. The programme actually supported 580 firms, created over 250 new jobs, and helped secure over 1,200 more jobs.
“Tradelinks 2 received £2.98million from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme, and was delivered by Enterprise NI (the network of local Enterprise Agencies in Northern Ireland) and the Border County Enterprise Boards in the Republic. It was also supported by both governments, through the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
“From October 2009 to September 2012, it available to any micro enterprise in Northern Ireland or the border counties. Through a combination of business mentoring and networking the programme was focused on increasing skills, knowledge, access to information, new contacts and new forms of doing business. Particular emphasis was placed in developing cross border trade opportunities and linkages.
“This is the second Tradelinks programme delivered by the LEA/CEB network and we are delighted that it mirrored the successes of the first programme. The quality and the variety of support which we believe Tradelinks 2 offered the micro-enterprise sector is testament to the time, commitment and consideration that has gone into providing a programme which benefits all those companies who participated.
‘Although the economic climate has changed significantly over the last number of years, Tradelinks 2 will have supported the participating companies, including businesses in the Down District, to create 250 plus new jobs, secure over 1200 more jobs and increase sales by £15 million”
Speaking at the celebration event in Banbridge, Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body, which manages the INTERREG IVA Programme, said: “The Tradelinks 2 programme is an excellent example of an EU supported initiative that has created direct benefits for micro-enterprises on a cross-border basis.
“Designed to help overcome many of the challenges faced by business owners, particularly in today’s tough economic landscape, it has enhanced their competitiveness by providing the support and assistance they needed to grow and develop.”
This Special EU Programme Body (SEUPB) is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in Ireland. The Body was established on 2 December 1999, under the Good Friday Agreement 1998 and the British Irish Agreement, establishing implementing bodies. The Body reports to the North/South Ministerial Council.