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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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£4m fund will enable smaller Cumbrian firms to take on the big boys

Small and medium-sized businesses in Cumbria now have a chance to join the big boys by applying for money from a £4m cash pot.

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The millions of pounds on offer to local businesses will safeguard existing jobs and create new positions.

Four partners, led by the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, (LEP) successfully bid for the cash from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, which forms a central plank of its strategy to regenerate the English regions.

It supports projects that lever in private investment to create jobs and economic growth, particularly in areas that depend heavily on public-sector employment. But with the minimum grant set at £1m – requiring at least that amount in match funding – smaller firms have so far struggled to table schemes that qualify.

The LEP, and its partners Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and CN Group, publishers of The Cumberland News, will distribute the money – under the banner ‘Unleashing Cumbria’s Potential’ – to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that meet the criteria. The hope is that Cumbrian firms will seize the opportunity to bid for funding.

George Beveridge, the LEP’s interim chairman, said: “We’re delighted to have been successful in accessing this funding to help Cumbrian businesses expand.

“Many businesses, especially our SMEs, have been precluded from applying for RGF funding directly by the minimum bid of £1m.

“This LEP programme bid opens this growth opportunity up to those businesses and will make a real difference to Cumbria’s economy.”

David Helliwell, deputy publisher with CN Group, said: “Smaller businesses are the lifeblood of local communities, providing products, services and jobs and putting money into the local economy.

“Through no fault of their own many struggle to get the added financial help that allows them to meet their potential. We are delighted to be involved with this scheme which we believe could be a real lifeline to enterprising businesses of all sizes, operating in all kinds of markets.”

The minimum grant could be as low as £10,000 and will typically cover between 10 and 40 per cent of the total cost of a project. The amount of grant will depend on the company’s size, location and activity.

Applications open today and run until February 18. Applicants will be asked for details of the project including timescale, delivery date, costs, benefits, a business plan and evidence of match funding, and explain why the grant is necessary.

They must also show their proposal is covered by the European general block exemption regulation and so does not constitute unlawful state aid.

Applications that can demonstrate they will create jobs – particularly for young people – boost profits and lever in private investment stand the best chance of success. The grants are aimed at SMEs, with up to 250 employees, although larger businesses can apply if they are specialist manufacturers or exporters.

The £4m the LEP has received is part of a larger £5m pot. The balance of £1m is targeted at businesses in low carbon/clean technologies and will be distributed separately.

CONTACTS

For general information about the Cumbria Regional Growth Fund programme: Leanne Beverley, Cumbria County Council, 01228 226628 or leanne.beverley@cumbria.gov.uk

To contact a Growth Hub advisor to assist in making a bid: Emma Blaney, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, 0845 226 0040 or emma@cumbriachamber.co.uk

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