Bellaghy Business Connects in the Netherlands

Bellaghy-based Connect Engineering Attachments has won its first export business in the Netherlands with help from an Invest Northern Ireland trade development initiative.

The company, which designs and manufactures attachments for excavators, has secured two orders for custom-designed buckets from a leading machinery sales business in Amsterdam. Connect gained the business following its participation in Invest NI’s ‘Going Dutch’ programme, a pilot initiative created to help smaller companies in the North West break into new export markets in Europe.

The ‘Going Dutch’ scheme is organised jointly by Invest NI’s North West Local Office (NWLO) in Londonderry and the agency’s Trade division through its In-Market Support scheme. It is delivered in the Netherlands by Amsterdam-based Northern Ireland Trade Consultants.

Brigid Duggan, Connect’s sales and marketing director, says: “Going Dutch is proving to be an excellent programme for us. During what was an exceptionally well-organised visit to the Netherlands we were introduced to four of the country’s leading machinery dealers. All four meetings were very positive. We couldn’t have reached customers of this standing without such expert help.

“One of them set us a challenge to design a special excavator bucket. We responded quickly and so impressed was the customer with the quality of our product and our speed of response that he placed an initial order and has subsequently followed this with a further contract.

“We are also very optimistic about business from our discussions with another company in the Netherlands. In addition, the other two companies are interested in doing business with us. So, Going Dutch is really delivering for us. We’ve learned from Going Dutch that we can compete successfully in this important market,” she adds.

Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Trade director, says: “Going Dutch is a further example of our focus on encouraging and assisting smaller companies, especially those with limited export experience, to explore opportunities in a carefully targeted market. The programme helps them to develop export capability through workshops and practical support on-the-ground from experienced business advisers in a target market.”

Kevin Helferty, Invest NI NWLO manager, adds: “Connect’s success highlights how Invest NI local offices can offer enterprising and ambitious companies like Connect Engineering quick and effective access to a broad range of expert advice and support in areas such as trade development, business improvement, design and R&D.”

Connect Engineering Attachments was formed three years’ ago and currently employs around 20 people. It sells its buckets and attachments to the excavation industry in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. In addition, it has recently started exporting its products to Norway.