A Government scheme for small businesses which is led from the North East, has attracted more than 1,500 expressions of interest since being launched last month.
The Growth Voucher Programme gives selected small and micro businesses a voucher worth up to £2,000 to cover up to half the cost of securing strategic business advice to help them grow.
The programme is being rolled out to 20,000 businesses in the UK between now and March 2015.
Since the launch 1,556 businesses across the UK have applied for vouchers and 671 have been allocated, representing £1.3m of business advice.
The selected businesses - which must have fewer than 50 employees, been trading for at least a year and have annual turnover or a balance sheet worth no more than £10m - can seek strategic advice on one of five key themes - managing cash flow and negotiating finance; developing skills and recruitment; improving management; marketing; and digital technology.
The Growth Voucher Programme is being led and administered for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills by County Durham-based business services provider BE Group. BE Group has distributed more than £60m in grant and investments to more than 30,000 SMEs throughout the UK.
BE Group chief executive Alastair MacColl said: “The early success of the Growth Vouchers programme is highly encouraging.”