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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Jobs boost as four Cumbrian firms cash in on Regional Growth Fund

Thirty-five jobs are being created by four Cumbrian businesses thanks in large part to grants from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.

Daniel Chamier photo
Daniel Chamier, of Chapman Bags

Chapman Bags in Carlisle, Ast Signs of Penrith, Hawkshead Relish, and Worth Furnishing of Kendal will share nearly £300,000 from a £4 million pot targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Chapman Bags is a highly-successful niche business with an annual turnover approaching £1m.

Based at Harraby Green Business Park, the company produces hand-made canvas and leather bags and luggage. The £25,000 grant will go towards a £125,000 expansion, creating eight jobs.

Chief executive Daniel Chamier said: “We are going to expand our current site to accommodate increased capacity, new machinery and to give us the ability to train a new generation of employees more easily.”

Chapman Bags already employs 20 people.

Half the output is exported – Germany and Japan are the biggest markets – although the company has recently secured orders from China and Hong Kong.

Ast Signs, which specialises in fleet graphics, gets £61,400 towards the purchase of new equipment to produce reflective vinyl for use in vehicle-safety applications.

The investment should create 10 jobs and safeguard another four.

Hawkshead Relish, a producer of handmade preserves, gets £60,000 to help purchase additional premises to facilitate growth and so create four jobs. And Worth Furnishing receives £152,000 towards a move to new premises, which will create 13 posts.

The latest tranche of grants follows an earlier announcement that Bells of Lazonby and Calder Foods in Carlisle would benefit from funding.

The Regional Growth Fund is one of the flagship business policies of the Coalition Government. It backs private investment to create or safeguard jobs in the English regions.

The likes of Pirelli in Carlisle have received funding directly.

But the minimum grant is £1m – which must be match-funded by private investment – a threshold so high that it precludes smaller businesses from applying.

That prompted Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to front a successful bid last year for £4m specifically to help SMEs. It has since applied for a further £4m to double the pot to £8m.

This money is being distributed under the banner ‘Unleashing Cumbria’s Potential’. Grants can be as low as £10,000. The LEP is working alongside Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and CN Group, publisher of The Cumberland News, which is media partner for ‘Unleashing Cumbria’s Potential’.

Suzanne Caldwell, the chamber’s head of communications, is delighted by the calibre of applications. She said: “The really encouraging thing is the number of businesses that have really good proposals to grow.”

For 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 adviser phone Emma Blaney, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, 0845 226 0040 or emma@cumbriachamber.co.uk.

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