Future job prospects in a Northumberland village have been boosted by a special fund set up following the loss of the county’s biggest private employer.
Lynemouth is the community closest to the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium smelter which closed with the loss of more than 500 jobs last year.
Now the village has been awarded its first grant – totalling more than £53,000 – from a legacy fund set up by RTA to help the area recover from the massive economic blow.
The money has been awarded to the Lynemouth Community Trust to help promote the entrepreneurial skills of local people.
The trust applied to the legacy fund to support three social enterprise ventures known collectively as JUICE – Joined Up Investment For Community Enterprise. The grant will help the businesses grow, win new orders and create more employment in the village.
The first of the three businesses is Kenspeckle, a chocolatier and confectionery company that operates out of Lynemouth Resource Centre.
It has already sold its products through Selfridges in London, but believes it can clinch more and bigger orders by having some new equipment, and by taking on four new employees.
The Rio Tinto grant will also provide new production equipment, and safeguard two existing jobs, at the resource centre’s cafe, which produces and sells a range of jams and preserves. They are also sold through tourist outlets such as National Trust properties.
The third and most ambitious JUICE venture is Weave, a business incubator hub for small, independent textile designers and manufacturers where self-employed people can produce and market their own creations.
Weave will accommodate 25 small businesses, and provide training for up to 300 local people.
Bill Tarbit, who chairs Lynemouth Community Trust, said: ”This is a terrific boost for Lynemouth's residents, and I'm confident the donation from Rio Tinto will unlock great potential in the community.
“The three businesses that form JUICE are quite distinct from one another, but by bringing them all under one roof we should be able to provide collective strength by maximising their buying power and marketing potential.
“Our business planning confirms local people have the skills, ingenuity and resolve to develop successful careers right here in Lynemouth, but in difficult economic times there is added security in sharing resources.
“We hope that with this investment we can establish Lynemouth as a UK centre of excellence for social enterprise.”
Rio Tinto’s regional economic development assistant Joanne Hannay said: “With this donation we're trying to help the community become self-sustaining. If these businesses flourish they'll create new employment and increase the amount of money flowing into Lynemouth's economy.
“Given the smelter's 40-year history, we wanted to make sure our contribution to this community was especially significant.”
The grant means the legacy fund has given out more than £450,000 since the closure in March 2012.