TODAY The Journal opens its £30m Let's Grow fund to the North East.
At a time when access to finance is harder than ever, our regional growth fund pot has been hailed as the region’s most important grant pot.
The Government-backed scheme aims to create or safeguard around 3,500 jobs by helping firms expand and grow.
Running from February 2013 to December 2014 the fund is also backed by enterprise managers at the BE Group and the accountants UNW.
Neville Bearpark, of UNW, has helped put together the fund and says its timing couldn’t be better for the North East.
He said: “It is important to the region because it will be the main source of grant funding for companies here. I won’t say it is the only source but by far it will be the main source of grant funding in the North East.
If the bid had not been successful the majority of companies in the region would not be able to access grant funding for capital projects.
“And just as importantly it enables smaller companies to access regional growth fund grant support. Companies can apply for smaller amounts that would otherwise have excluded them from the fund.”
He added: “The focus is on manufacturing and businesses which provide a service to manufacturing. We can’t really support firms in what you would call the local economy, those say in retail or pubs where it has a more limited impact.
“The reason for that is, we need a net benefit to the UK as a whole, it is money from a national grant scheme, that means we have to look at those who provide more than just a local service.
“Instead we play to the region’s strengths in quality manufacturers, in exporting businesses.
“The most important thing is the project must create jobs. Our only target, the only thing we report on, is how many jobs have been created or safeguarded. That is our aim here.”
Speaking after yesterday’s launch event, Journal editor Brian Aitken said: “It is pleasing that the success of Let’s Grow has been recognised with the £30m award.
“The Journal and Evening Gazette are the catalysts for the activity that will now take place. Working with our partners the BE Group and UNW, who both bring their different expertise to the table, is what makes us collectively such a strong delivery partner for the Government.
“We have now put together a strong, knowledgeable investment panel who will decide where the £30m will be distributed over the next two years.”
The programme will run as a series of quarterly competitions promoted by The Journal and our sister paper in Teesside The Evening Gazette.
BE Group is the accountable body and is responsible for managing the fund, including applications and monitoring.
They and the other two partners will be working with the two northern local enterprise partnerships, Northumbria and Teesside universities and all 12 local authorities, who are providing practical, promotional and financial support to make all this happen.
Go to www.nebusiness.co.uk/letsgrow to find out more and apply online