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Export fund offers firms gateway to foreign shores.

Byline: ANNABLACKABY

The rising tide of West Midland exports is set for a further boost thanks to a pounds 20 million scheme to help firms tap into opportunities abroad.

The region is one of the UK's best performers in terms of overseas trade - the latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs show its exports of goods increased by 25.5 per cent in the year ending September 2010 - the highest percentage rise in the English regions.

But officials believe the region can do even better than the pounds 16.7 billion worth of exports it notched up last year as most of that rise was down to existing exporters stepping up their activities rather than new firms exploring overseas markets.

An extra pounds 7 million in European funding has now been made available, which will be matched by the private sector and added to an existing pot of pounds 6 million to create a pounds 20 million programme aimed at getting more firms to do business overseas.

More than 1,600 small and mediumsized businesses are set to receive a helping hand under the West Midlands (SME) Internationalisation project.

Doug Mahoney, international trade director from UKTI West Midlands, said: "We want to get more people involved in export as the number of exporters has held up during the recession but it hasn't increased. What we would really like to see is more companies exporting from the West Midlands because we believe that many West Midland companies are right to exports and now is a good time.

"There are plenty of companies in the West Midlands who are manufacturers or service companies who perhaps have been happy in their home market and haven't had to think about exports.

"But if your home market is in decline you have to look at whether your product is right for export."

The project, which is led by Coventry University Enterprises, has received in total pounds 10.4 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which is matched by UKTI West Midlands and private sector businesses. The project will provide help through tailored action plans and advice as well as international trade visits, awareness workshops, market development and market intelligence gathering.

Meanwhile UKTI's Mr Mahoney has been appointed OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, in recognition of his contribution to international trade and investment in the region.

Since 2000 he has led UK Trade & Investment's team of specialist advisers across the West Midlands, providing business support to firms who are new to exporting or expanding their activity overseas.

* Which West Midland names are included on the Queen's Birthday Honours? Find out on page 31

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The region is one of the UK's best performers for overseas trade
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 16, 2011
Words:455
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