Chairman's Blog May 2016
Cornwall Business Week is a good opportunity to recap on some of the recent developments around business support now available in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
I’m delighted that the Growth Hub is now fully up and running and I would urge businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to register.
Growth Hubs are being established by LEPs across the country as a way of providing local businesses with a single point of access to the plethora of information and support available to them, whether that is delivered locally or nationally.
Our Growth Hub is being funded by the EU Growth Programme, the Government, the LEP and Cornwall Council. Its main role is to help businesses navigate through the help available to start or grow a business in our area, so it is a bespoke service. It can be accessed via on-line registration and is backed by a team of experts on the phone and based right across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Businesses that sign up to the Growth Hub via the website will not only get access to support information, but will also be able to promote their products and services via a Business Directory, check out upcoming events and start sharing their news straight away.
But the Growth Hub is much more than a website. Supporting the online activity is a team of locally-based experts whose job it is to work directly with businesses to help them identify and access support in the way that is right for them.
That support can take many forms, whether it’s the availability of funding and investment, training and skills, business premises, legislation, business networks or just advice and information. So please use it – it’s there to help.
Also going live is a new three-year investment fund called Business Investment for Growth 2, or BIG2, named after the successful BIG programme that operated under the previous EU Convergence Programme.
As before, the fund is aimed at supporting business growth and has almost £4.4 million available to provide financial support ranging from around £2,500 to £75,000, up to a maximum 45% of total project cost.
It will operate over a three year period and is run by Cornwall Development Company, which successfully bid for the funding from the European Regional Development Fund, part of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme. For details on how to apply visit the Growth Hub.
A similar scheme is due to be launched on the Isles of Scilly on 16th May. The Isles of Scilly Voucher Scheme is a £1.36 million investment fund, also financed by the European Regional Development Fund. Financial support will be available for island businesses from a minimum of £1,000 to a maximum of £100,000. In most cases support offered will require a proportion of match funding depending on your project plans. More details will be available on the Growth Hub soon, but in the meantime click here.
These investment funds have a proven track record of helping businesses grow and create jobs, which is why further funding streams are currently under consideration. The LEP recently published a review of how almost £19 million that we and our partners secured for Cornwall and the isles of Scilly from central Government has been invested.
That original £19 million, which came from the Regional Growth Fund and the Growing Places Fund, is now fully committed. But what has it bought? Well the statistics are impressive. In the last three years the funding has directly supported 128 businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in most sectors.
It has helped to create or safeguard 6,759 jobs, and attract more than £90 million of other investment. That’s almost £5 for every £1 of Government money. It has also helped create 42,000 square meters of workspace – the equivalent of around six football pitches in area.
Our aim was to target the investment on businesses that found it more difficult to access EU funds, and help others make the most of superfast broadband, all geared to boosting jobs, growth and productivity.
We invested in infrastructure to unlock more private investment, and created a loan fund to support bigger projects. Money from these repayable loans will be reinvested in growing our economy. There’s much more detail, including case studies and statistics, in a downloadable report on our website.
None of this would have been possible without the strong partnership we have forged between the business community and our local authorities, and credit must go to Cornwall Development Company for managing the funds.
Since that first success in attracting devolved investment, the LEP and its partners have secured an additional £60m of investment through two Growth Deals with Government, and are preparing to bid for a third. More on all that in a future blog.
Our original Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay has been extended to include Goonhilly Earth Station since April 1 this year, attracting global interest. And a new MarineHub Enterprise Zone for Cornwall has been confirmed.
Significant progress is also being made on tackling skills issues, with the LEP having been asked to lead on this as part of Cornwall’s Devolution Deal, along with business support.
We have earmarked £100,000 from our budget towards the creation of a Skills Access Hub. In a similar way that the Growth Hub can signpost and broker business support, the skills hub will assess what businesses needs in terms of skills and training, and refer them to the most appropriate sources of help.
Not only will it help businesses identify their skills needs but it will act as a bridge between employers and education and training providers to make sure that businesses are in the driving seat when it comes to their needs being met. It will play a major role in plugging the skills gaps that are highlighted to the LEP as a major issue for our economy.
Applications are now being invited to develop the Skills Access Hub, with up to £1.5 million available from the EU Growth Programme. The deadline is 20 June and more information is available here.
Staying with skills, I am pleased to report that the LEP’s Enterprise Adviser programme has just gone live. This is a national scheme that links volunteers from the local business community with schools and colleges to help bridge the gap between education and employment.
The aim is to help young people make more informed choices about their future careers and ensure that employers are getting the skills they need from the workforce of tomorrow.
The LEP is co-funding the project in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with the national Careers & Enterprise Company as part of our wider drive to improve careers advice in schools. It’s a great opportunity for employers and business leaders to support young people by sharing their business knowledge, expertise and experience.
We are also looking at health and wellbeing in the workplace and the role it can play in boosting productivity, staff morale and helping people feel motivated and receptive to ways of working that can improve the performance of a business. It’s early days but there is already a lot of support available and we are looking at how that activity can be focused more on the business community.
I hope this provides an update on just some of the LEP’s ongoing activity. Please keep an eye on our website for latest news, sign up for our newsletters and follow us on Twitter. We will be attending various events in the coming months and are always happy to discuss our work.