I’ve been a bit distracted lately. I had a marvellous holiday in Mexico with my wife and then came back to the birth of my new grand-daughter. Ava Violet Elizabeth is absolutely gorgeous and I’m happy to report that mother and baby are both doing tremendously well.
Well, witnessing the miracle of new life led me to muse on the subject of new beginnings generally. So many things need some effort and a great deal of hope and faith to get started. I’ll admit to a bit of a misunderstanding on my part. I had always thought it was one of Chairman Mao’s famous sayings that “every thousand mile journey begins with a single step” and indeed he does quote it but I now realise it was in fact a quotation by Lao-Tzu, a fifth century BCE philosopher considered to be the founder of Taoism. Incidentally, when did we drop BC and AD when referring to dates and replace it with CE and BCE? I think it’s now much more prosaic and I’m not entirely sure I want to be living in 2012 of the “Common Era” but I digress. Whether it was Mao or Lao-Tzu who wrote it the sentiment is absolutely right.
I’ve challenged the North West region, its companies, its local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and all of its intermediaries and business support organisations to identify and help 1000 companies to start exporting in 2012. It’s a demanding target but one I’m sure we’ll all give our best shot at achieving and I can report that I am already seeing new exporters getting out there and succeeding. In fact, almost the day after I’d issued my challenge, Tracy Barlow – Marketing Director at 24/7 Uptime contacted me to say that they were accepting my challenge and they are now exporting following some help from UKTI’s Passport to Export programme. 2011 was a record year for exports from the North West with our exports of goods reaching £27bn. Even more impressively we saw some tremendous increases to certain countries: Germany up by 39%, China up by 35%, Turkey up by 42% and Russia up by 48%. Our sales to the EU as a whole rose by 17%. This was a tremendous performance and highlights the wealth of fantastic products and services the region has to offer to the world.
I’m looking forward to seeing what this year has in store, I’m confident that we will continue to grow exports but I’m particularly looking forward to hearing the stories of the hundreds of firms that begin their export journey for the first time this year. After all, just like my gorgeous grand-daughter Ava will soon be taking, all thousand mile journeys begin with the first step.