Cookstown business gain unique insight into £16 billion public procurement market

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Almost 300 businesses attended the recent ‘Meet the Buyer’ event in the Glenavon Hotel, Cookstown – this was the first event of its kind to be held in Northern Ireland and was hosted by InterTradeIreland, in partnership with Invest Northern Ireland, Central Procurement Directorate (CPD), National Procurement Service and the Strategic Investment Board.

This event was aimed at showing SMEs how to access the public procurement market as well as highlighting the opportunities for businesses to compete for significant government and public sector contracts, both North and South.

Present at the Cookstown event were a variety of major buyers from the public sector who are handling contracts potentially generating expenditure of £2.7 billion per year in Northern Ireland. Businesses at the event, had a unique opportunity to meet and engage with over 50 representatives from 26 of the largest buying organisations on the island including, the Health Sector Executive (Ireland), Translink, An Garda Siochana, NIE and the National Procurement Service (Ireland).

In addition, this event included a number of workshops which provided SMEs with an overview of the all-island public procurement market, as well as covering a broad range of current issues such as the Public Procurement Process in Ireland, Procurement in the Health Sector and Consortia Building to further build SMEs’ tendering capabilities.

Councillor Tony Quinn, Chairman of Cookstown District Council said “I am delighted that InterTradeIreland selected Cookstown as one of the venues for this event which has attracted around 300 businesses here.

“This event provided a great opportunity for local companies to meet potential buyers, develop their procurement skills and network with other businesses. On behalf of Council, I would like to thank IntertradeIreland for hosting this successful day which has proved most valuable to businesses in this current economic climate.”

Margaret Hearty, InterTradeIreland Director of Business Programmes and Services, believes that small businesses cannot afford to ignore the current public procurement opportunity.

“For some suppliers, the concept of trading with the Public Sector is still an alien one with the processes of tendering and procurement seen as intimidating and bureaucratic.

“This perception alone can stop businesses, particularly SMEs from competing for potentially lucrative contracts when the reality is that because of their size, they may be best placed to offer flexibility, value and innovative solutions to meet the demands of buyers in the public sector,” said Margaret.

“InterTradeIreland is leading what is the first truly joined-up government approach to tackling the problem of SMEs accessing government contracts as despite significant cuts in spending, public procurement remains a huge and underexploited market for many SMEs, a market currently worth around £16bn across the island. We were delighted to host this Meet the Buyer event in Cookstown.” She concluded.