THE company which provides the Business Link service for the North East has unveiled ambitious nationwide expansion plans as prepares to hear that funding for its core business will be axed by the Government.
Confirmation that the regional Business Link services will be closed in 2012 is expected from Business Minister Mark Prisk within days.
Business & Enterprise North East (BENE), which provides the service for the region, has taken steps to restructure itself, in the face of Business Link’s impending demise, with 135 redundancies from its 416-strong workforce.
But it is unveiling ambitious plans to provide business growth, improvement and economic development support across the UK.
It recently secured its first contract in London and has incorporated a new company as a launchpad for its growth nationwide – BENE UK.
Chief executive Alastair MacColl said: “It has been a tough time for the business with the changing economic and political environment.
“It is disappointing to lose talented members of staff but we have to look ahead.
“We feel confident about the future and with our track record we will be formidable competition in the field of business improvement and enterprise across the UK.
”Our aim is to be a major player in the field of business support and have the skills, knowledge and experience to deliver effective and efficient services.”
Since winning the contract to provide the Business Link services BENE has grown in size and is responsible for North East overseas trade through the North East Regional International Trade Office. It also incorporates the North East Investment Centre (NEIC), Compete North East and the North East Employer Coalition.
BENE’s revenues for the last financial year totaled £41m with almost £20m of that coming from regional development agency One North East to provide the Business Link service and to co-ordinate business investment through the NEIC.
Despite the impending demise of One North East in 2013 MacColl remains bullish for BENE’s long-term future.
He added: “We are currently running with 26 separate contracts which include ones with the Department of Work and Pensions, the Environment Agency and local authorities.
“We secured our first contract in London to provide enterprise training to tenants of the Home Housing Group. We can compete in the areas of business improvement, enterprise and economic development.
”In the last year we worked with over 30,000 businesses in the North East.
“We can now offer a whole range of skills and services to business.
“There is now the opportunity to expand into new markets across the UK. “