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International Focus for Highlands and Islands Businesses

7th April 2010

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is boosting the opportunities for its businesses to seek out new international markets.

The development agency is increasing the numbers of Highlands and Islands dedicated staff working within Scottish Development International (SDI), which offers access to business support internationally, including operations in 27 countries. Representatives for food & drink, tourism, and life sciences are the latest members of a team of nine providing international advice to local businesses across a broad range of sectors.
The international network is already benefiting businesses who work with HIE.

Environmental Hygiene Products Limited based in Tain, is exploring a joint venture in the North Eastern states of America. The company develops, manufactures and supplies waste bins to customers in healthcare, education, defence and the public sector.

"Environmental Hygiene Products Ltd have been leaders in developing innovative products over the past 30 years to meet the specific needs of our customers. Since a management buy out in 2002, and with HIE support, we have seen output in Tain more than double," said Gary Campbell, of EHPL.

"The American market offers a significant opportunity for us. Healthcare is very high in the Obama government agenda and through HIE we have worked with SDI in Chicago to get the contacts we needed. Joint working with a manufacturer in America will be a first for us and we hope to be producing our fire retardant hospital bins by the end of the year."

There are a range of services available for businesses in the Highlands and Islands to prepare them for going global.

"HIE works with businesses to look at the opportunities that may be available for them to grow. This often can either be through product development or by seeking out markets. Together HIE, Business Gateway and SDI have created a range of initiatives to help businesses research and break into overseas markets," said Rob Clarke of HIE.

Michael Koetsier, who is the SDI regional manager for the Highlands and Islands, earlier this year took a roadshow around the region to let businesses know what is available.

"SDI can work with businesses of all sizes, either through Business Gateway or HIE. Last year HIE and SDI worked with almost 50 Highlands and Islands businesses to develop international plans."

"SDI doesn?t sell for businesses but our network of SDI offices can offer invaluable information on markets and can help businesses break into international arenas. We can help businesses research markets, both from home and through exhibitions or missions in the targeted country. We also offer business services from our offices for Scottish companies, including incubation and meeting rooms," he said.

The businesses exploring international markets are diverse. Skye based software business Sitekit Solutions Ltd has been to America twice in the past year. The company develops website content management systems and is now recognized as a UK leader in providing solutions for the healthcare sector with 32 NHS Trusts now using their portal software to improve e-health.

Campbell Grant, Managing Director at Sitekit commented: "I found the SDI staff in both Boston & San Jose extremely helpful and welcoming to us as a SME (small and medium enterprise) doing market research to find our US market niche in healthcare. The SDI staff were highly professional at making useful introductions and were prepared to do some real spadework for us to find the right connections. I'd recommend any small business with export aspirations, no matter how far ahead in the business plan, to get in touch with SDI at an early stage to understand how they work and what they can do for you".

For any food and drink businesses interested in breaking into the North American or Canadian markets there is an event being held in Inverness at HIE in May. It will outline key market trends, the routes to market, importing to USA, and will include key note speakers from industry.


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