The North West economy would get a £2 billion boost if every business in the region selling overseas expanded to one more global market, according to an expert.

Clive Drinkwater, regional director at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) North West, said international trade was key to aiding economic growth and urged businesses exporting to push further and those considering overseas sales to take the plunge.

The body has launched a new package of support for first-time exporters including training and advice on selling overseas, the chance to take part in trade missions to develop contacts with buyers and an online tool to assist planning.

UKTI is sponsoring the Exporter of the Year category of one of Lancashire’s biggest business awards, the Be Inspired Business Awards, the BIBAs, which is in the penultimate week of judging to select its winners.

Mr Drinkwater said: “I am challenging all exporting businesses in the North West to export to one more market.

“If every current exporter achieves this, we could increase the GDP in the North West by an estimated £2 billion, significantly aiding economic recovery.

“The Government’s ambition is for exports to reach one trillion pounds and get 100,000 more companies exporting by 2020.

“Selling abroad is the surest path to successful, sustainable, long term growth and companies that export become more productive, more innovative and more efficient than those that don’t.

“Research shows they are also more likely to survive a recession than those firms that do not export.”

The BIBAs will hand out 18 prizes to firms across the county and judges are continuing a second round of interviews this week which will see panels go out ‘on tour’ to visit the premises of their finalists across the county.

Tomorrow, the Construction Business of the Year judges will meet their nominees including Conlon Construction, the Bamber Bridge-based building firm which holds the award.

Sam Schofield, of shale gas group Cuadrilla UK which is behind the burgeoning fracking industry in Lancashire, said: “There is more to the construction industry than those firms who are involved in laying the bricks and mortar, there is a huge service sector around the industry.

“The diversity and quality of businesses on the shortlist for this category at the BIBAs is evidence of a strong construction sector in Lancashire.

“At Cuadrilla, we believe construction is one industry which stands to benefit from the growth in shale gas in Lancashire, including the wealth of high-quality construction services businesses.”

The second round of judging continues until Thursday, July 2 when the Business of the Year judges visit their finalists.

All winners will be unveiled at a prize-giving ceremony held at the iconic Blackpool Tower on Friday, September 11.

A lifetime achievement award, Lancastrian of the Year, will also be handed out on the night, selected by a panel of the prize’s former winners.