A national business organisation boss has urged Bradford firms to treat London and the South East as an “export” market in a bid to boost trade.

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, made the call after touring firms and meeting members of Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

He said that while economic activity across most of the UK remained sluggish, London and the South East was “going like a train” and offered new business opportunities.

“Some people complain that the UK is too London-centric, but that’s always been the case going back centuries,” he said.

“In the current economic climate that part of the country is where the action is and I believe companies from the Bradford area should approach it as if it was an export market and take advantage of the ample opportunities that exist there to boost their business.”

Mr Longworth is a former Asda director and Tesco senior executive who took up his current role in September.

During his day with Bradford Chamber he visited several companies, including PEC Building Services, whose chairman Balbir Panesar is a former chamber president; Shipley engineering firm Archerdale and the Borg warner turbocharger plant on the Euroway trading estate.

He was joined by chamber president Stephen Wright, whose company Thorite has expanded into the West Midlands as part of a drive to operate its pneumatics equipment and servicing business nationally, and vice-president Paul Mackie, who heads property consultants Rex Procter& Partners which last year opened its third South East office.

PEC has also launched a base in London’s Mayfair.

Mr Longworth said he was encouraged by feedback from Bradford Chamber members who had started 2013 slightly more optimistically.

He also called on the Government to become “more partisan” when it came to sourcing goods and services by using more UK suppliers. He said: “We are the most open country in the world and I think it would help our members if the Government was more pro-active when it comes to awarding supply contracts to national businesses, like they do in the United States, France and Germany.

“Like many businesses around the UK, they remain frustrated at the difficulty small and medium-sized companies have in getting funding from commercial banks who are very risk averse.

“I am impressed by the Business Enterprise Fund which is based at the Bradford Chamber. While not unique, it is an excellent initiative supporting companies that have been turned down by banks.”