Invest Northern Ireland has established a regional small business club in Ballymena to help local companies in the North Eastern region grow faster and increase profits by focusing on best practice and business improvement techniques to boost sales through greater efficiency, productivity and quality.

The club, part of a series for companies throughout Northern Ireland, is being co-ordinated by Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services (BIS) with support from the agency’s local office in Ballymena. Thirteen local companies attended the first meeting of the club on 2 April.

Invest NI offices in Belfast, Londonderry, Newry, Omagh, Coleraine, Enniskillen and Craigavon are assisting other clubs.

The new regional clubs indicate Invest Nl’s commitment to enhance the role of its local offices in the delivery of the agency’s programmes for promoting business start and the faster growth of existing companies across Northern Ireland.

At the Ballymena club, the agenda focused on issues such as health and safety and Invest NI services, about which the companies had asked for information during initial contact to seek their backing for the club. Jim Irvine, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Agency, addressed the meeting about health and safety issues. Information about how Invest NI’s Principles for Business Support can help companies grow faster through customised services was provided by staff from the agency’s Ballymena office.

Outlining the role of the new small business club, Peter McCarron, BIS Executive, said: “Our aim is to help companies explore how they can prosper by applying proven best practice and business improvement techniques and by benchmarking their implementation and results.

“The clubs will meet regularly and participating companies will decide on business issues to be covered. Our involvement will enable them to draw practical expertise, information and knowledge from Invest NI on how to improve their business. It will also provide a framework for companies to learn from each other’s experience,” he added.

Mr McCarron said the decision to set up the club was part of Invest NI’s commitment to help local companies win more business by measures to increase the skills of employees and their overall capability.

“We want the companies to run the clubs and to work with us in developing activities that will produce tangible benefits for them as they seek to grow their business.”

Attending the inaugural meeting were senior managers from the following local companies: ALR Waste Management, Larne; Black Box, Antrim; Catering Equipment Engineers, Antrim; C&C Frames, Ballymena; Chip Master, Ballymena; Enviro-Plus Technologies, Ballyclare; Innovation Technologies (Ireland), Carrickfergus; Mid Antrim Signs, Ballymena; Niral Stainless Steel Systems, Ballymena; Simms, Ballyclare; and Springfarm Architectural Mouldings, Antrim.