Over 500 representatives from more than 350 small and medium Irish businesses converged on Kilkenny’s Newpark Hotel last Thursday to attend an all-island InterTradeIreland ‘Meet the Buyer’ event.
Designed to raise awareness and understanding of the public procurement market, SMEs gained information on how to unlock the market, worth an estimated €20 billion. They were given the opportunity to network and engage with some of the largest public sector buying organisations in the country.
One local business representative, Jamie McHardy from MLCS, said the event had been a worthwhile exercise.
“Overall, I thought it was very beneficial,” he said.
“One or two of the parallel sessions were quite good. The one on how to improve your pitch was very useful; I got a good few points from it I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
Representatives attended from around 20 of the key buying organisations from Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the HSE, Dublin Airport Authority, Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE), Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) and An Garda Síochána. Attendees also included spokespersons from the National Procurement Service (Ireland) and Central Procurement Directorate (Northern Ireland).
The morning began with speeches from Thomas Hunter McGovern, CEO of Inter-Trade Ireland, Vincent Campbell of the National Procurement Service, and Fine Gael Minister of State for Small Business John Perry. The junior minister said he was delighted to see such a large crowd in attendance.
“I think it’s a sign of determination to succeed,” he told the Kilkenny People.
“This is people doing what they are best at – managing their own business, they are all here confident and competing for public contracts north and south. If you look at the nearest market into the UK, it’s a unique opportunity now to start your own business, develop your existing business. So I think the opportunity for Ireland is good.
One of the consistent themes of the event was the idea that more businesses such collaborate on projects and be more open to consortia to boost the chances of procurement. Following the speeches, guests had the opportunity to network, discuss opportunities, and attend several organised lecture sessions throughout the day.
“This is very important; it’s an opportunity for local buyers and suppliers to interact with the state agencies here,” said Minister Perry.
“They are engaging, there is a lot of collaboration. The level of cooperation is fantastic.”