Business growth funding from LEP hits £30m mark

Businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk have now benefited from more than £30m in grants through New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

From Growing Business Fund grants of up to £500,000 for large expanding firms to Small Grant Scheme payments of up to £25,000 for SMEs, the LEP’s Business Growth Programme has supported more than 800 separate projects.

Around 3,000 jobs have also been created as a result of these flagship grant programmes since the LEP was established 10 years ago to work with businesses, education and local authority partners to drive growth and enterprise in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of the LEP, said the £30m landmark and the creation of so many jobs underlined the role the organisation played in supporting businesses in the region.

“We are ambitious for this region and the initiatives we deliver are designed to ensure businesses here have the funding, skills, support and infrastructure to flourish,” he said.

“Sometimes a large grant is needed to fund the next stage of a company’s growth or it could be a smaller amount that is needed to buy a piece of equipment. We know all too well how much support businesses need, and we will be doing everything we can to help them through the Coronavirus outbreak.

“Our business grants continue to be available, so I would encourage businesses to contact New Anglia Growth Hub and speak to one of our advisers.”

Optima Metal Services in King’s Lynn can testify to the benefits of the Growing Business Fund and Small Grant Scheme. A £1.2m expansion complete with a new factory, a flatbed laser and vehicles was made possible thanks to a £120,000 grant six years ago.

A further funding injection of £264,900 in 2018 enabled Optima to go ahead with the purchase of a tube laser and the creation of 14 new jobs. The installation of LED lighting in the warehouse has meanwhile been funded through the Small Grant Scheme.

Financial and other support from the LEP has played a significant role in the growth of the firm whose workforce has increased from 40 to 70 in three years, said project co-ordinator Warren Boore.

“We are the only company in East Anglia offering the tube laser cutting as a commercial service,” he said. “The Growing Business Fund grant gave us the opportunity to really get in first and it has set us up with a whole line of business we were not previously able to offer.

“Our customer base has traditionally been west Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and south Lincolnshire, but we have now expanded from a 30-mile radius to a 70-mile one, with clients in Bedfordshire and Norwich.

“Without the grant, we would not have been able to do this for another two years, so it has really helped accelerate our growth.”

The Small Grant Scheme gives businesses access to grants of between £1,000 and £25,000 and can cover 20% of the total cost of a project and in some areas 30%. It has now awarded £3.67m to 362 projects.

Creative outfit Liquid11, which has offices in Lowestoft and Norwich, knows all about the scheme. New hardware bought with a grant of just under £10,000 earlier this year will enable it to extend the service offered by its telephone answering business.

Pocket Receptionist picks up between 800 and 900 calls each day on behalf of 450 businesses and employs 10 people full-time.

A grant of £25,000 meanwhile funded the refurbishment of premises near Norwich Station into new offices for Liquid11 and a hub for other tech companies in the area.

Manager Matt Rayner said the LEP had been “instrumental” in the progress the company had been able to make. “Without the finances and the guidance initially, we could have grown but at a much slower rate and having the LEP hold our hand through the whole of that process has taken out a lot of the worry and fear of funding,” he commented.

“It’s just fantastic an organisation like that is there to drive enterprise and growth locally.”

Norfolk Brewhouse near Fakenham used a grant of £2,800 to buy a 20-barrell fermentation tank in January. This will enable it to produce 4,500 pints more of its core Moon Gazer every week and free up existing smaller tanks for seasonal specials and collaborations.

“We will now be able to produce an additional 168,000 litres of our standard cask beers each year and increase the company’s overall productivity,” said director David Holliday.

“We simply couldn’t have done it without the support we received from the LEP, so I would advise other small businesses to get in touch and find out if they are eligible.”

To find out more about the Growing Business Fund and Small Grant Scheme and other support offered by New Anglia Growth Hub, call 0300 333 6536

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