An £800,000 programme which could help businesses as they plan their recovery from the coronavirus lockdown has been launched across the Marches.
Grants of up to £10,000 are available under The Marches Small Equipment Grant (SEG), which is open to small and medium-sized companies across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin.
Programme manager Caroline Cattle said the grants would meet up to half the cost of installing new equipment to help SMEs create new jobs, boost productivity or launch new products and services.
She said the grants could be particularly useful as businesses began drawing up and implementing recovery plans in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The scheme, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and supported by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership and Marches Growth Hub – is part of a £3million funding package which also includes the Marches Building Investment Grant (MBIG).
Caroline said: "Businesses across the region are now starting to think about how they will recover from coronavirus and we think the Small Equipment Grant (SEG) can play a vital role.
"Grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 are available as a contribution of up to 50 per cent to help companies buy the equipment they need to recover from the impact of the last few months and innovate and expand, creating new jobs and products."
Paul Hinkins, chair of the Marches Growth Hub, said the new funding came at a vital time and addressed a gap in provision.
"Up until now we have not had a scheme which offered grants to businesses for equipment under £10,000 and we know from our own research how much interest this will generate, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.
"I would urge any company to get in touch with Caroline’s team or their local growth hub to see how we can help them."
Councillor Ellie Chowns, Herefordshire Council Cabinet Member for Environment, Economy and Skills, said: "As a council and as an administration, we are committed to doing all we can to help our economy flourish. The Marches Building Investment Grant has helped so many local businesses to expand, but this Small Equipment Grant will really help small and medium sized enterprises access funding on a slightly smaller but no less significant scale. We are pleased to have been involved and encourage anybody who is interested to get in touch."
Councillor David Wright, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for Economy, said: "This scheme will provide much-needed help to business at a time when it is urgently needed. We would encourage any eligible business in the borough to take advantage of it."
Items purchased under the scheme – which primarily covers B2B businesses – must exceed £500 in value and have a life expectancy of three years. Eligible projects must lead to the creation of at least one part time job within six months or the creation of a new product or service to be used by other businesses.
Because of restrictions imposed by the ERDF, the scheme is not available to retail businesses, restaurants, drinking establishments and fast food takeaways, online retail or rental businesses, farms involved in primary production, or local social welfare facilities.
Herefordshire Council is the accountable body for the scheme. Full details are available from the programme team on [email protected] or by calling 01432 261511.
The Marches Growth Hub Herefordshire can be contacted on 01432 261758 or email [email protected]
The Marches Growth Hub Shropshire can be contacted on 01743 250526 or email [email protected]
The Marches Growth Hub Telford & Wrekin can be contacted on 01952 567589
or email [email protected]