When I was much younger I spent 3 years working in a town called Corby, Northamptonshire. I went initially on a secondment to the Corby Industrial Development Centre. Corby was a steel town and much of the steel works were shut down in the late 1980s throwing around half the working population out of work. As a result the town became a Special Assisted Area with grants for capital expenditure and job creation. There were also Enterprise Zones which amongst other things reduced planning complexities and The Commission for the New Towns built speculative factory units offering attractive rent free periods. If that wasn’t enough, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Investment Bank offered low interest loans and British Steel Corporation also provided easy terms for small industrial units and soft top-up loans. The emphasis of everything was industrial regeneration, and job creation.
Of course those days are long gone as are those types of financial assistance and the Essex area is generally considered an affluent one. I was prompted by my colleagues however as part of Rickard Luckin’s initiative for the manufacturing sector to see whether there is much in the way of grants or other financial assistance in the Essex area which might be available for our clients and other businesses involved in manufacturing.
My initial inclination was a pretty cynical one that there would be very little help and probably made extremely difficult to obtain by bureaucratic red tape.
My investigations led me to contact Economic Growth Solution (www.economicgrowthsolutions.co.uk) – which deals with the Manufacturing Growth Programme Grants Scheme and is based in Southend. This scheme provides free advice and support to manufacturing SME’s including grant aid for a proportion of the costs of hiring external experts to advise business and grants towards the costs of reducing a businesses’ carbon footprint, and grants towards the costs of certain types of capital expenditures. The advisory grants are limited to up to 35% of total costs with a maximum grant of £5,000 whereas the capital grants are limited to up to 40% of costs up to a maximum grant of £10,000 for carbon reduction projects and up to 30% subject to a £10,000 maximum grant for capital purchases. So although these grants are not for large amounts they can undoubtedly be of assistance to smaller businesses which usually suffer severe difficulties in raising funds for development.
Economic Growth Solutions referred me on to the Best Growth Hub which is an offshoot of the Local Learning and Enterprise Partnership. I spoke to them and was amazed by the plethora of grants, soft loans and other assistance which is available. There are many categories of potential financial help and assistance available covering a range of different business types and business and social situations and far too many to mention in this article.
I recommend that for any local business which is looking to expand, expend, create jobs or obtain external expertise it is worthwhile spending half an hour on Best Growth Hub website – www.bestgrowthhub.org.uk and/or talking to Economic Growth Solutions and if one or more of the schemes looks of interest the initial investigation should be followed up with a phone call to them as they can advise fully on what is available and how to obtain it.