International Trade Minister announces Midlands Engine Export Champions Programme

  • 28 Export Champions will offer expert advice to businesses across the Midlands
  • Announcement comes as Department for International Trade holds first Midlands Engine Trade Summit

Midlands businesses looking to export to countries across the globe were given a boost yesterday (9 March, 2017) with the announcement of dozens of ‘Export Champions’ as part of a programme to encourage and inspire businesses to export internationally.

Announced at the inaugural Midlands Engine Trade Summit, the ‘Midlands Engine Export Champions Programme’ sees 28 high profile business leaders from across the region offering their expertise and advice to inspire companies to export and support existing exporters looking to expand into new markets.

From vehicle manufacturer Westfield Sportscar in Kingswinford, to textiles design business The SundayGirl Company in Kidderminster, the 28 Export Champions – 13 of whom are based in the West Midlands region – span a wide range of sectors and services. Business leaders from these companies will provide peer to peer support and help others to fulfil their global market potential.

Speaking at the Summit in Birmingham, International Trade Minister Mark Garnier said:

“We want to use the momentum of the Midlands Engine to drive this region’s exports to new heights and I am delighted to announce the launch of the Midlands Engine Export Champions Programme. Twenty-eight experienced exporters based in the Midlands will work to inspire others to either export for the first time or to export more.

“My Department is helping even more companies in the region explore opportunities on the global market and through this Programme local business will truly benefit from a range of expert advice and support.”

Elizabeth Gooch, CEO of Stafford-based eg solutions, a provider of enterprise workforce optimisation solutions, specialising in the back office, said:

“I am delighted to be appointed as an Export Champion by the Department for International Trade. I am really proud to fly the flag for British business and I know that our products are well respected throughout the world. It’s a great opportunity to assist other businesses who are interested in expanding.

“Exporting not only helps businesses grow, it also contributes to the economic well-being of the region – it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to play a part in this initiative.”

Andrew Riley, chairman of Kingswinford-based Mechatherm, which produces equipment for the aluminium and non-ferrous industrial sectors, said he was honoured to be appointed an Export Champion:

“We’ve had a lot of support from UK Export Finance over the years as we’ve sought to find new export markets and being appointed an Export Champion enables me to give something back. I’m looking forward to working with the Midlands Engine to advise and support new exporters.”

The announcement of Mr Riley’s appointment as Export Champion comes just days after the company won a £25 million export contract to manufacture six furnaces and a water-cooling plant in Bahrain.

Over 27,000 businesses across the Midlands Engine exported nearly £40bn worth of products to over 100 countries in 2015 and the Midlands is responsible for 24% of England’s manufacturing output with particular strengths in automotive, motorsport, aerospace and rail.

The creation of the Midlands Engine Export Champions Programme swiftly follows the launch of the government’s Midlands Engine Strategy.

An ambitious strategy to help the Midlands reach its full economic potential, the Strategy has been published today as the Chancellor Philip Hammond visited the region the day after delivering his first Budget.

It includes significant investment in skills, connectivity and local growth, while it sets out how the government plans to drive the region’s huge potential and promote it to the world.

Over 600 delegates attended the Midlands Engine Trade Summit at the Vox Conference Centre where they participated in specialist workshops and heard first-hand the steps they can take to export their goods and services overseas.

In addition to engaging with SMEs and local businesses, the Export Champions will promote the Department for International Trade’s Exporting is GREAT campaign and digital tool which helps UK businesses break onto overseas markets. This innovative new programme will provide practical advice and support to drive further growth in exports.

The companies who will be flying the flag for international trade in the West Midlands are:

• Philip Duggan, Director The Boss Design Group (Dudley): Boss Design is the UK’s market leading manufacturer of high quality office seating, upholstery and tables, and enjoys global success within this design-led sector. Phillip’s years in the industry have provided him with considerable knowledge of the UK market and insight into how to penetrate export markets within the furniture sector.

• Simon Evans MBE, Sales and Marketing Director, Moflash Signalling (Birmingham): Focused on the production and distribution of signalling alarm devices, Moflash Signalling has built a distribution network which sells into over 46 countries. Simon has 25 years’ experience within the signalling industry, with 22 of these years focused on the export side of the business.

• Deborah Leary OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Forensic Pathways (Birmingham): As CEO, Deborah has responsibility for the strategic management and direction of Forensic Pathways, focusing particularly on the development of its product and service offering to international markets. Deborah is also an international speaker and consultant on issues such as entrepreneurship and global trade.

• Andrew Riley, Chairman, Mechatherm International (Kingswinford): Mechatherm International is a family-owned business which supplies furnaces and associated equipment, primarily for export, throughout the world. Having worked for Mechatherm for over 40 years, Andrew is chairman and a major shareholder. During this time, the company has exported to over 40 countries and won the Queens’s Award for Export three times.

• Ian Stokes, Managing Director, Stadi Arena (Meriden): StadiArena provides stadium owners, developers and operators the opportunity to create a true multi-use venue by converting an outdoor stadium into an indoor arena. Ian joined the company shortly after its inception in 2007 and now, through a project and territory licensing model, it is currently active in India, Australia, the US and the UK.

• Stewart Towe CBE DL, Chairman and Managing Director, Hadley Industries plc (Smethwick): Trained as an accountant, Stewart moved to Hadley as group accountant in 1976 before being appointed to the board in 1978, with responsibilities for commercial and financial development. He completed the buy-out of the business in 1978 and today the company has a turnover of over £125 million, with manufacturing plants in UK, Holland, Turkey, Middle East and Far East and licensees throughout the world.

• Julian Turner, Chief Executive Officer, Westfield Sportscars (Kingswinford): Westfield Sportscars Limited is Britain’s second largest niche vehicle manufacturer. A family owned business, it designs, manufactures, tests, validates, and globally distributes a range of specialist vehicles under its European Small Series type approval. As CEO, Julian was awarded SME Director of the Year for the Midlands in 2016, and has been involved in the acquisition, risk management, and integration of several companies in both the global aviation and automotive sectors.


• Jo Hilditch, Managing Director, Whittern Farms (Lyonshall): A growing and diversifying agri-business which supplies seven million chickens into the broiler meat market, as well as supplying blackcurrants to Ribena and this year is partnering with a gin company to make further inroads to the gin market. Jo’s diversification into award winning British Cassis, a fruity blackcurrant liqueur made from her own blackcurrants, has been successfully grown into a more substantial drinks business which supplies retailers, farms shops, bars, garden centres, restaurants, and hamper companies.


• Simon Pearson, Managing Director, Jesmonite® (Bishops Castle): Jesmonite is the ultimate chameleon material of the building industry – it can be used to replicate the appearance and texture of any surface finish in any number of colours. Jesmonite Limited has been invigorated by Simon’s presence, working with investors to re-launch an acrylic-modified gypsum composite to the top end of the global construction market.


• Elizabeth Gooch MBE, Chief Executive, eg solutions plc (Stafford): Elizabeth designed and launched the eg operational intelligence® software suite to embed best practice production management techniques into businesses to deliver sustainable benefits, and eg’s back office optimisation software is now recognised as the most complete purpose built back office optimisation in the world.

• Paul Morris, Founder and CEO, Addmaster (Stafford): Addmaster develops additive-based product improvements to a wide cross section of global industries. The company was set up by Paul 17 years ago after he became frustrated with large corporate chemical companies not following through on promises of innovation.


• James Blakemore, Managing Director, JMB Partnership (Warwick): In ten years of business, JMB has worked with companies all over the world, with international trade representing over 70% of sales to date. James is the company’s founder and has extensive experience in the business development and international trade arena.


• Gaena Martin, Creative Director, The SundayGirl Company (Kidderminster): Gaena is the founder and creative director of The SundayGirl Company, an award-winning textiles design company. The company was started in Gaena’s home three years ago, and now SundayGirl aprons can be found in fifteen countries around the world.

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