We know that access to finance is an issue for our businesses, and that it can be a barrier to growth.

Iain 1The sheer number of  funding, grant and loan schemes on offer can also be confusing, and as a result, there is now a central point of access to information on the vast opportunities on offer.

The Marches Growth Hub, at www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk, includes a searchable database of funding and finance schemes.

Companies can also contact the hub helpline on 0345 6000 727 to find out what schemes they are eligible for, including local, regional and national funding programmes.

In 2012, The Marches LEP was awarded £8.1 million by the Government from the Growing Places Fund (GPF) to be used as a Revolving Loan Scheme. This funding was branded Marches Investment Fund (MIF). The aim of the fund is to provide capital loan funding for stalled housing and business premises projects that, following the injection of capital funding, will be able to start quickly and unlock economic growth. The fund also provides loan assistance for projects to complete their final stage feasibility studies (revenue funding). This funding offers an exciting opportunity to help address the need for investment to unlock development that will create much needed homes and jobs in the Marches area (Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin).

Over the past 4 years the Marches LEP has found it a real challenge to utilise the allocated funding as a Revolving Loan Scheme. After three rounds of expressions of interest, two projects have been awarded funding. The two live projects, both of which are now in the repayment phase are of a combined investment value of £1.4m providing job creation of 262 full time equivalent new jobs.

As we have not been able to award any further funding, The Marches LEP has been working very closely with Government on alternative options of using the remaining MIF funds. Both the LEP Board (23 May 2017) and Marches Executive Joint Committee (14 June 2017) agreed to the use of MIF as a Recyclable Grant for Public Sector-led schemes including a range of business site projects that did not secure any Government Growth Deal funds in 2017. These public-sector led projects will be subject to an independent appraisal which will establish value for money and will if they meet the scheme criteria be offered an interest free loan rather than a grant. The criteria for Recyclable Grant for Public Sector-led schemes can be found here.

An alternative scheme for private sector-led schemes is currently being researched by the LEP and will be put to the LEP Board later in 2017.

The Chancellor announced the creation of a £250m Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) in his March 2016 Budget, aimed at boosting the region’s economy and supporting the growth ambitions of its 460,000 smaller businesses.Britishbusiness bank

The fund, a joint agreement between the British Business Bank and eleven Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the East & South East and West Midlands, will bring together legacy funding from existing programmes, new funding from the British Business Bank and new European funding.

The first wave of the £250m MEIF was announced in August 2017 launching £120million worth of SME debt finance, in a move designed to provide greater support to the region’s smaller businesses, accelerate economic growth and promote job creation. You can find out more about this here.

Further information on access to finance is available from http://www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk/finance-and-funding or by calling 0345 6000 727.

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