Companies across the Black Country are to get vital assistance and support to help them expand and prosper through a ground-breaking partnership.
The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has secured £3.1m from a £32m Regional Growth Fund programme being run by Lancaster University, to set up the ‘Growth Factory’ in the region.
Under the scheme, which is being led by Wolverhampton City Council, small to medium businesses will be given access to a host of services, under one roof, to help expand, promote and support their enterprises.
This will include a package of grants, exclusive business support products and an offer of export and marketing experts that can be based within local businesses.
It is set to be launched on Wednesday 1 January 2014, with the project finishing in March 2015.
The Growth Factory will be based in Wolverhampton Science Park and will aim to create hundreds of new jobs, while safeguarding existing ones and attracting further funding to continue the scheme beyond 2015.
It has come about as a result of the partnership incorporating the four local authorities, Black Country Chamber of Commerce, the University of Wolverhampton, Manufacturing Advisory Service, UKTI and Growth Accelerator.
Businesses accessing the factory will be given day to day support and advice to tap into new markets, make the most of supply chain opportunities and to promote their operations.
A package of specialist support will also be put together for businesses focusing on innovation.
Stewart Towe, Chair of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, said, "The Black Country Growth Factory will support local SMEs to overcome capacity constraints and maximise the opportunities resulting from global growth, through access to new markets and competitive supply chain opportunities, to achieve our shared objective – to grow the Black Country economy."
Councillor Peter Bilson, Wolverhampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Prosperity, said, "This is fantastic news for the region and the result of excellent partnership working.
"The Black Country economy is starting to grow again, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and we want to help small to medium businesses maximise the opportunities that will arise.
"Help businesses expand”
"The Growth Factory will help businesses expand, creating as well as safeguarding jobs and we are also confident that we will secure the necessary funding to continue this after 2015.”
Allocation of the resources from the Regional Growth Fund will be through Lancaster University. As well as helping to decide which cities’ proposals received funding, Lancaster University academics will also be providing on-going support and evaluation of the cities.
Lancaster University, which was named as a top-ten university for SME engagement in a recent review by Sir Andrew Witty, was brought in because of its experience and expertise in working with businesses and local authorities, as well as Local Enterprise Partnerships and growth hubs.
Lancaster University has worked with more than 5,000 SMEs since 1999. It has also helped the creation of more than 250 new business and more than 4,000 new jobs.