COLUMN: Foreign markets are ripe for firms to break into

Pauline Latham signs a book of condolence for people held at Auschwitz
Pauline Latham signs a book of condolence for people held at Auschwitz

By Pauline Latham

MP for Mid-Derbyshire

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the UK headquarters of the boiler manufacturer Vaillant; who are based in Belper, to celebrate their recent listing in this year’s Superbrand Business Index.

Given their success, and the fact that one in three of household boilers in the UK are made at the Belper factory, it is clear that this is richly deserved.

The visit was fantastic, and I learned a great deal about Vaillant, which provides employment for around 500 local people in Belper. What I was really taken with about Vaillant, however, was their employee-focus.

Setting their sizeable workforce aside, the company have also committed to training and offering graduate schemes to aspiring engineers, and really make an effort to engage with their workforce and local community by putting on fun days and other social events.

The company, which originates in Germany, was a family business, and some of its employees still bear Vaillant as their last name. Their story is evidence of how diversifying in foreign markets can turn a small, family run business into an international operation, and with the range of fantastic and innovative SMEs in Mid Derbyshire, I am hopeful that Vaillant’s success could be emulated.

This idea may be somewhat aspirational, but for one of my constituents; Andy Caughey, exporting has proved a significant factor in growing his business, Armadillo Merino, which makes and sells next-to-skin garments made of merino wool.

I was first introduced to Andy and his company in 2012, and worked with him to bring his product to the attention of the Ministry of Defence, whose personnel could benefit from using Armadillo Merino’s fire-resistant base layers. From its humble beginnings in Duffield, Armadillo Merino now sells its products all around the world, and even supplies the Japanese army. The UK is the sixth largest exporter in the world, and British exports, especially in the aerospace and pharmaceutical industry are in high demand on the global market.

The Government’s efforts to increase UK exports have also proved fruitful, and over the last quarter alone, the trade deficit has been reduced by 45 per cent. Whilst the achievements in this regard have been undeniably significant, it is great that the Government recognises that there is still much to be done, and in the last Budget, the Chancellor made considerable provision for this exact purpose. UK Export Finance (UKEF), which is the government body responsible for providing financial support for UK exporters, has seen its Direct Lending Facility doubled to £3 billion, meaning that more businesses will have access to funding to start exporting. UKEF has also begun a consultation to make changes to export laws, which will mean that it has greater powers to assist businesses looking to export.

I am confident that the Government’s emphasis on business will help to grow the UK export market. I for my part am keen to do whatever it takes to support businesses in my constituency to break into the export market, and I would ask anyone who owns a business and wants to export their products not to hesitate in contacting me for guidance.

I have also sent letters to those businesses that attended my export event at Derby University last year, detailing the scope of these changes.