LEADING North East figures last night threw their support behind The Journal’s £30m bid to drive business growth and potentially create 3,600 jobs in the region.
The second phase of our Let’s Grow campaign – one of the most ambitious bids ever made – has now been submitted to the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
If successful, it would lead to the creation of a three-year scheme to invest in growing businesses of all sizes across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and Teesside.
Already 25 companies from across the region have contacted The Journal and its sister title on Teesside the Evening Gazette saying they would like to be the first recipients of money from what would be the largest source of grant funding for firms in the region. Projects from those 25 businesses alone are seeking more than £10m from Let’s Grow which would leverage some £45m in private sector funding.
With a decision on whether to approve the bid expected in the late autumn, MPs and business leaders are calling on former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine’s committee to make the right decision.
Journal Editor Brian Aitken said: “We are enormously grateful to the hard work that our partners have put in to the application process which, we believe, has produced an exceptionally strong bid.
“Hopefully ministers will see that by supporting Let’s Grow they will be providing a huge boost to the potential of North East companies large, medium and small to create jobs and economic growth.”
Neville Bearpark, of Newcastle-based chartered accountants UNW, who helped put the bid together, said: “What sets the Let’s Grow bid aside from many other RGF programme bids is the widespread support and endorsement it has received across the North East including both North East and Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), all 12 local authorities, Teesside and Northumbria Universities, the Confederation of British Industry and North East Chamber of Commerce.
“This demonstrates the strength of feelings within the region towards having a scheme like Let’s Grow.”
Former regional minister Nick Brown, Labour MP for Newcastle East, welcomed the bid.
“Direct intervention to support the creation of sustainable private sector jobs is the right way forward for the North East economy,” he said, “and our task is to strengthen and broaden the North East’s private sector employment base.”
Liberal Democrat Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith was similarly supportive, recognising the campaign’s previous success in securing £3m for projects at 13 companies and hoping the current bid, which would see funding handed out by a panel of North East business experts working with the Business and Enterprise Group.
“I very much welcomed the way in which The Journal put together bids from smaller businesses in the last round of funding applications as it was of huge benefit to the North East, and I hope they will be successful for a second time,” he said.
Professor Andrew Wathey, vice-chancellor of Northumbria University, said: “The Let’s Grow campaign is a real opportunity to support business growth in the North East. Northumbria University is a committed advocate for the campaign and urges the Government to support it through the regional growth fund.
“We believe this bid can make a major difference to the regional economy and look forward to working with the other partners to progress these plans for the benefit of the region.”
Graham Henderson, vice-chancellor of Teesside University added that with this partnership in place, “North East companies with real growth potential will have an excellent opportunity to create new jobs and wealth.”
As well as The Journal’s bid LEP Tees Valley Unlimited also yesterday endorsed 15 RGF applications, worth £68m, that could create or safeguard 1,800 jobs on Teesside over the next decade.
The projects include three from companies involved in the low carbon energy industry, four from the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector, two from logistics companies, one supporting infrastructure development and one from the creative and leisure industry.