There is no secret behind the North East's success opening up foreign markets. The reason is simple; we make things that people want. Paint, packing foam, cars, polymers, cables, chemicals, valves or pies - we make it and we sell it...usually overseas.
Our businesses are leading the UK in terms of opening up foreign markets, exploiting opportunities in new and developing economies and as such, leading the fight back from the economic downturn.
In terms of exports, the North East has the healthiest balance of trade of all UK regions and our companies are exploring new overseas opportunities on a daily basis.
Last year we smashed all export records with more than £13.75bn worth of products sold overseas in the 12 months up to the end of March. These figures are all the more impressive considering they were achieved as the UK struggled to recover from the worst recession in generations and, falling back into recession earlier this year.
The USA is the North East's single largest export market, with more than £2.4bn worth of goods exported there in the last year, but businesses are exporting more to Europe now, opening up new markets in parts of oil-rich Russia, exploring opportunities in South America and Africa and building in the successes of trade links to the Middle and Far East.
There is no doubt the region can achieve more, but in an era when banks are less willing to undertake trade specific credit arrangements there is greater need for more appropriate state support to mirror that available to other countries, such as Germany, Japan, USA.
The bulk of our export success can be attributed to the manufacturing and engineering sectors, with the region's healthy automotive industry centred in Sunderland, offshore sector and process industries playing a leading role.
There have been highly encouraging signs that growth in the service sector is improving. For the first time since the beginning of the recession growth in the sector has begun to outstrip the healthy figures returned by manufacturing companies, according to trends demonstrated by the NECC's Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), the largest business survey in the region.
The QES demonstrates that the first half of 2012 has seen the largest increase in business positivity since 2008. There is also evidence demonstrating a positive link between innovation, research and development and exporting.
The North East has a proud history of producing and nurturing great innovators and pioneers and it's good to see that innovative companies that invest in research and development are more likely to benefit from exporting.
Port Director at Port of Sunderland
Elected Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
Matthew Hunt became Port Director at the Port of Sunderland in 2010. Matthew previously worked as Commercial Manager for the Seaham Harbour Dock Company, he spent 14 years at the Port of Tyne where he rose to the position of Commercial Director of Port Services before coming to Sunderland.
The wealth of experience and enthusiasm that Matthew brought with him into the role has driven the Port of Sunderland from strength to strength. 245 extra vessels were welcomed to the Port in 2011 - 2012, and there has been an 84% increase in traffic into the Ports docks year on year.
Sunderland is open for business, open to business. It offers a remarkable range of opportunities in a city with a growing entrepreneurial spirit.
A city with a strong heritage of making things well, Sunderland has a proven track record of attracting, encouraging and nurturing successful enterprises, from manufacturing to new technologies. Investing in Sunderland is a low risk, high reward opportunity for any business.
Put simply, we believe Sunderland is the easiest place in the UK to do business