Growth Fund money for North East firms will help create jobs

Big grants from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund will go to business investment schemes in the region

Harry Swan, Managing Director of Thomas Swan in Consett
Harry Swan, Managing Director of Thomas Swan in Consett

Delighted business and enterprise bosses revealed plans to expand and create jobs last night following a multi-million pound windfall for the North East.

Big grants from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund will go to business investment schemes in Sunderland and Teesside which will support efforts to create thousands of jobs.

Money will also go to a series of private sector manufacturing and research projects in the region.

These range from a pioneering initiative aimed at saving lives by producing drugs to combat superbugs to a scheme to turn renewable energy into petrol.

The grants are conditional at this stage and details of exactly who gets what will not be revealed until discussions to finalise the plans take place.

This is the fourth round of cash for the region from the fund. The previous rounds have seen some £333m earmarked for North East firms.

The cash is expected to create or safeguard 5,600 jobs in the region.

Ministers set up the fund to try to encourage firms to create jobs, partly to replace those lost in the public sector as a result of spending cuts.

The Journal is helping create jobs through the Let’s Grow scheme, a £30m programme launched in February after an earlier round of the Regional Growth Fund.

In the new round, Sunderland City Council will get £12m to boost business growth by improving key transport links, helping ease traffic problems around the A19 and A1231.

It will include new infrastructure around Sunderland’s Low Carbon Enterprise Zone and in busy areas to pave the way for business expansion.

New roads will link a new bridge with the city centre and Port of Sunderland to more offshore and marine engineering activity.

That will underpin Sunderland and the North East’s city deal bid which includes the creation of an advanced manufacturing park expected to create 16,000 jobs.

The offer is conditional on the successful conclusion of the city deal.

Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This funding provides valuable support to help us get going with our city deal for Sunderland and the North East.

“The city deal will build on the success of our already burgeoning manufacturing sector, creating up to 24,000 jobs over the next 30 years, and this funding will help us to put in place the infrastructure and improvements needed to begin to make this happen, as well as supporting current Enterprise Zone sites.”

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has been awarded £7.5m to support small and medium-sized companies. It follows a £30m programme from round three to support strategic infrastructure development.

The cash will help fill the gap in loans and equity finance to companies.

Jeremy Middleton, a North East board member with responsibility for access to finance, said: “The decision to support the North East’s small and medium-sized businesses is great news. Discussions have already begun about how to bring other sources of funding to bear so that this £7.5m is multiplied many times over and creates even more employment growth.”

Offers of grants have been made to several private sector companies.

Details of how funds are shared between projects have not yet been revealed, but bosses say they are delighted.

One project will develop a flexible skills and apprenticeship programme to support growth and provide access to jobs for young and older workers.

Among the successful private sector bidders is pharmaceutical company Molplex Ltd, which has an office on Newcastle Quayside and a laboratory at Sunderland University.

The company uses innovative technology including its Optiplex system to develop more effective treatments at a lower cost for patients around the world. Money is earmarked for a new laboratory in Sunderland which senior financial manager Victoria Camargo said will create a “significant number” of jobs.

It will develop medicines to treat infectious diseases which are becoming resistant to drugs.

“We are going to establish an Optiplex laboratory for new drugs and medicines for diseases which are currently untreatable, that have developed resistance against current drugs in the market,” said Mrs Camargo.

“It’s a major breakthrough for Molplex in our fight to deliver new drug treatments in a safer more effective way and at much lower cost.

“It will trigger additional private investment and will create new jobs for Molplex and suppliers in the local community.”

Chemical company Thomas Swan & Co says the plan is to invest money in a new technical centre it wants at the company’s plant in Consett where 165 people are employed.

If details are finalised, the grant will help towards the £5m cost of the building project and would create jobs.

Managing director Harry Swan – whose father Tom is chairman – said “We are absolutely delighted to have an offer. A lot of people applied for grants and competition was tough.

“If we are successful and go ahead, it will mean more jobs because our aspirations are to grow and this is all part of our growth plan.

“So, for the Consett area it’s hopefully going to be good news.”

The Tees Valley will get £26.9m for five projects including one which will create 300 jobs and lever in private investment of £146.6m.



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