The companies behind the delivery of Business Link West Midlands have confirmed they are in discussions about a potential merger.
The move - revealed by The Birmingham Post several weeks ago - follows a deeply troubled first year of operation.
The proposal will see Gateway and Brokerage come together to form one business entity, albeit nothing much is set to change on the ground. The Gateway refers calls to the Brokerage for action, and, it is understood, this will remain the case.
"The average business will not notice any difference," said a spokesman.
Currently based in Birmingham and Dudley respectively, the two are later this month set for an expensive move to a new location at Quinton.
But it is likely to result eventually in their being just one chief executive. Currently Tony Lucas heads Gateway and Lorraine Holmes is in charge of Brokerage.
Critics have slammed the Business Link West Midlands operation claiming that it has been attracting far fewer inquiries than under the previous less centralised regime ripped up by paymaster Advantage West Midlands.
They claim targets are artificially set and artificially met amidst a tick-box mentality, and no real impression is being made on an entrepreneurial base desperately lacking in depth.
One said: "It is just not working. They are not getting the amount of referrals needed, there is no great success in the numbers of companies being formed and the economy of the region is not changing in the way that is needed."
Business Link denies that it is failing and yesterday rolled out the great and the good in a bid to justify its existence.
Ms Holmes claimed: "We have been working closely together for nearly a year now and are set to achieve all our targets for the first year of operation, by providing business information and advice to over 66,000 companies and in-depth support to over 9,000 more.
"However, this is just the beginning of an ambitious plan for the next three years in which we aim to make a quantum leap forward in terms of the quality of our service and its impact on businesses and entrepreneurs in the region.
"By 2010 we need to boost the number of companies benefiting from in-depth support each year from 9,000 to 16,000. The single company structure, proposed by the boards of both Gateway and Brokerage will enable us to gear up the operation to meet the challenges that lie ahead."
She claimed it would create "a seam-lessly integrated customer experience from start to finish" - something the critics say would be a first; efficiency savings which can be re-invested into increased local delivery and the recruitment of more specialist advisers - critics say the exercise is costing a fortune; and greater emphasis on targeting specific business sectors with specialist expertise and support - critics say that is singularly lacking to date.
David Burton, chairman of the Confederation of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, said: "We are fully behind this move as we recognise the need for business support to continually evolve to meet the needs of companies and entrepreneurs in the West Midlands.
"The new organisation will channel additional resources and investment into areas that matter most to businesses, such as more experienced advisers, more specialist enterprise providers and a high-growth support package that will be amongst the best in the UK and Europe."
Chairman of the West Midlands Business Council, Barrie Williams, commended the merger saying: "We all have a common goal and that is to make sure businesses and potential entrepreneurs have access to the most effective support possible. The merger of the two companies involved in the delivery of the Business Link West Midlands service is an important step in achieving this.
"Our members have enjoyed the benefits from using Business Link West Midlands over the last year and the move to one organisation will provide them with even more opportunities to enhance success."
A formal decision on the merger is due to be made by the end of February but it is effectively a fait accompli.
The move to Quinton is also due at the end of the month. Business Link West Midlands employs 280 staff and has a pool of self-employed advisers.