Help Us Spark the Next Stage of Our Region's Growth; New Campaign Is Aimed at Small and Medium-Sized Companies

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Hebden

THE Journal is today launching a major new campaign to help ambitious small and medium-sized companies in the North East to expand and create jobs.

We are planning to spearhead a bid to the second round of the Government's Regional Growth Fund which will bring together a consortium of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the region.

Until now, SMEs have been effectively ruled out of bidding into the fund because there is a minimum threshold of pounds 1m for applications.

By bringing together applications from several companies to form one bid of more than pounds 1m, The Journal's Let's Grow campaign aims to help dozens of businesses in the region to create jobs.

The campaign is open to all companies with their registered head office in the North East with fewer than 250 staff and an annual turnover of no more than pounds 25m. They must require funding for a particular project which will create sustainable jobs in the region and which would not go ahead without support from the fund.

The business will be expected to provide a significant proportion of the overall funding required for the project, as stipulated under the rules of the Regional Growth Fund.

The North East was one of the most successful regions in terms of securing support from the first round of bids to the fund. In total, some pounds 50m was awarded which is expected to create or secure around 13,000 private sector jobs in the region.

All of the region's leading business organisations have offered their support to The Journal's Let's Grow campaign, which is being run in conjunction with Business and Enterprise Group. This includes the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the manufacturers' organisation EEF and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Newcastle accountants unw are providing expert advice on the application process.

Journal editor Brian Aitken said: "As the region's leading business newspaper, it seems a natural fit for us to play a role in supporting firms to expand and create jobs.

"SMEs are the lifeblood of the North East economy and provide the majority of employment in the region. We know only too well that many of them would dearly love to expand yet securing funding remains challenging for many of them.

"We hope that the Let's Grow campaign will provide an innovative way for North East SMEs to access the Regional Growth Fund which may have otherwise been out of reach due to the minimum bid threshold of pounds 1m."

Alastair MacColl, chief executive of Business and Enterprise Group, said: "Our group is committed to helping generate private sector growth and jobs. That's why we're so pleased to be working with The Journal to help our SMEs realise the kind of investment that will help turn their ambitions into results. …