Leaders of the Black Country Chamber are in a confident mood to win part of the #40 million contract to run Business Link services in the region after their own scheme beat targets.

Latest figures showed the service had exceeded expectations in a number of key performance indicators.

It comes as Advantage West Midlands is due is decide who will run the new service when it is reorganised on a regional basis from next year.

The scheme will be delivered in three parts - a gate-way, a brokerage and manufacturing sector - in an effort to save back office charges and increase the amount of money reaching firms.

AWM's board will announce on Wednesday who will run the three parts of the new structure for the next three years.

A shortlist of ten companies and chambers have been drawn up, with the Black Country chamber bidding to run the gateway - the access route into the service - and as part of a consortium to run the brokerage.

Yesterday, the chamber revealed its Business Link teams advised a total of 6,637 individuals on starting in business in 2005-6, exceeding the target by six per cent.

Satisfaction levels rose to 93.7 per cent, against a target of 92 per cent, while work with under-represented groups was also recognised.

During the year it supported more than 1,180 ethnic minority-owned businesses and approximately 680 women-owned businesses.

It provided support to 9,444 businesses, one per cent above the target, 1,055 of which received intensive help - six per cent ahead.

John Reader, chief operating officer of Black Country Chamber and Business Link, said: "What these latest results show is that Business Link Black Country is an integral part of the local business community and that the support it provides makes a real difference to the development of this region.

"It is the end of the financial year and we have to report how we have performed, but we are pleased to report it's been a good year.

"This stands us in good stead for taking on part of the revised Business Link structure."

An AWM spokesman said: "We are looking for more effective use of resources and innovative ideas. We need to break into areas where business support has not gone into, minority ethnic groups and women's enterprise. The services will be the same, but better."