Norfolk firms need to be less frightened and put themselves forward to secure deals with the region’s leading firms and public bodies, chamber of commerce chief executive Caroline Williams said yesterday.

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During an event orgnaised by the Norfolk Chamber, 40 buyers held one-to-one sessions with 400 firms from across Norfolk and Suffolk to identify the local businesses that could help drive-down costs, improve efficiency and boost their output.

And as well as creating a unique networking opportunity for firms, the Opportunities 2013 event also provided business-to-business exhibitions and workshops from sector leaders.

Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber, said yesterday’s event at Norwich City Football Club provided an opportunity for buyers to find the services that would make them more competitive – but she said that suppliers had to be forthcoming with what they could offer.

Meanwhile, buyers from both the private and the public sector told of the links they had made that could lead to new contracts in the future.

Mrs Williams said: “Businesses have been given the opportunity to draw on some of the top companies in Norfolk and Suffolk. And what has been particularly exciting is that the suppliers have been delighted and the buyers have been pleasantly surprised with the range on offer – unearthing one or two hidden gems that they will definitely follow up on.

“When you talk to some of the companies at the top of the tree, they all want to buy more locally then they currently are. So Norfolk suppliers need to less frightened because it is up to the suppliers to make themselves known.

“After all, businesses are hungry for new ideas and solutions to make themselves more competitive.”

Buyers spanning the breadth of Norfolk and Suffolk’s private and public sector were on hand at the event, including Adnams brewers, Blue Sky Leisure, Norfolk County Council, May Gurney, Kinnerton, Norse, Briar Chemicals and City College Norwich.

Jonathan Wade, who was buying for poultry-giant Bernard Matthews, said the event had helped identify seven companies, from language services to IT and telecoms, that could lead to potential contracts.

He said: “The event provides a ten-minute test. If the business has potential then you can express further interest, but if not then I have saved myself an hour speaking to them.

“I wasn’t expecting a huge success, but I have got six of seven companies that could be of interest to us.

“It is an opportunity for suppliers to get in front of us who would not normally get to do so – and if it means doing more business with a local supplier then that is no bad thing.

“We are not necessarily looking for a business that can offer a cheaper service, but a firm that offers a different set of skills.”

Meanwhile, Holly Stibbon, director of Taverham-based website developers 101Smart, who was meeting buyers, said the event helped suppliers find out what firms wanted in an ever-changing market place.

She said: “Things keep changing, and over the last ten years we have had to develop our service substantially. It’s about finding out what people want and these events certainly help.”

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