A multi-million pound job-creation scheme spearheaded by The Journal has made or safeguarded more than 2,500 roles in the North East.
The Let’s Grow scheme has used money from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund to help 64 businesses across the North East and given out £20m in support.
Now bidding has opened for a third round in the scheme with the final £10m open to firms in the region who can show the money will create more jobs.
Let’s Grow involves The Journal working with our sister paper on Teesside, the Evening Gazette, national business services company BE Group and leading accountants and business advisers UNW.
Since being awarded funding from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, the scheme has created 1,700 jobs and helped safeguard a further 900.
Business Minister Michael Fallon said: “The Let’s Grow campaign is crucial for businesses in the North East helping to maintain the area’s reputation for industry and advanced manufacturing.
“The Regional Growth Fund is helping to kick-start British business and is the Government’s commitment to encourage long-term employment, boost private sector growth and lead to a more balanced economy.”
The fund provides support from £50,000 to projects with a minimum expenditure of £200,000, allowing small and medium-sized firms who would not otherwise be able to qualify for the Regional Growth Fund because of its £1m threshold to benefit.
In the two bidding rounds so far, there have 141 expressions of interest, £20m of grants awarded and £159m of private sector investment supported.
Nicki Clark, chief operating officer at BE Group, said: “When the scheme was launched we believed it would attract the quality and value of projects required to achieve the fund’s expectations, but only time would tell.
“The first two rounds of the competition have been really successful with £20m of grants being awarded to 64 businesses across every region of the North East.
“If ever there was doubt that the region lacks ambitious, entrepreneurial businesses then our experience to date disproves this.
“These businesses will create over 1,700 jobs in the region as a result of our grant support and additionally we have safeguarded a further 900 jobs.
“What is particularly pleasing is that we have seen applications from a broad spread of sectors.
“Traditional sectors such as engineering, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and oil and gas are represented, but encouragingly we have seen applications from emerging sectors such as renewables, IT and electronics, demonstrating how the North East economy is transforming to meet new opportunities.”
Among those helped is oilfield equipment manufacturer and engineering provider Axon Energy Products, which brought 40 skilled engineering and research jobs to Gateshead as a result.
NewcastleGateshead Initiative’s director of inward investment, Catherine Walker, said: “We’re delighted with Axon’s decision to base its European operations in Gateshead.
“Its presence will further strengthen our world-renowned reputation for innovation in research and development, particularly within the offshore and marine sector. The additional skilled engineering jobs created and the potential benefits to the existing supply chain will be a welcome boost for both the local and regional economies.”