01/10/2002

Minister urges 'share and learn' approach to small business

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Sir Reg Empey, has urged small businesses to share ideas and solutions to problems, on both a local and a cross border basis.

The Minister was speaking at the inaugural lecture sponsored by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) at the Stormont Hotel attended by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney, who was the keynote speaker at the event, which attracted over 80 people representing the SME sector.

Sir Reg highlighted a number of areas in which small businesses could benefit from shared work: “The Tánaiste and I share a common interest in the development of small businesses. We are both heavily involved in supporting the work undertaken by InterTradeIreland, the cross-border Trade and Business Development Body. InterTradeIreland is currently involved in a number of initiatives that are assisting small businesses on a cross-border basis. Of particular note are its Graduate Placement Schemes – Fusion and Focus – which between them will be assisting some 60 small businesses on both sides of the Border.

“Health and safety - and insurance - are issues for all businesses, but are areas where SMEs can sometimes struggle to get a balance between meeting regulatory obligations and overburdening their business.

“The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland has undertaken an innovative ‘ask’ initiative through which it has, quite simply, begun to ask small firms what they need.

Sir Reg said that the 2001 Small Firms Project, was a partnership-based approach to help identify and analyse the needs of small businesses, and the barriers that prevented them from putting health and safety on their business agendas.

He said that the FSB has been "very supportive" of the project which is about to move on to its next phase where key recommendations put forward by SMEs will be implemented.

The HSENI and the Republic’s Health and Safety Authority are also to establish a cross-border working group focused on improved health and safety standards in small firms, north and south.

"This is an issue of growing importance given current difficulties in the insurance market,” said Sir Reg.

The growing cost of insurance for small businesses has become a growing concern due to the sharp rise of insurance premiums in several business sectors.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is the largest small business lobby group in the United Kingdom, and has nearly 3000 members in NI and over 170,000 in the UK.

(SP)

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