For more than 150 years, the Birmingham Post has been a champion of business and enterprise.
Today, we are very proud to be in a position to offer direct support to the business community, thanks to the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
The Birmingham Post is well-placed to work with our partners to ensure the money is well spent -– and hopefully to play a role in getting the Midlands moving again.
A Regional Growth Fund panel chaired by Lord Heseltine has approved our bid for £5 million from the £1.4 billion fund.
As with the rest of the fund, the money is available to be used creating jobs in the private sector. This might mean anything from subsidising the cost of new equipment to paying for the training of staff who might not otherwise be employed.
The Post’s involvement is designed to open up the Regional Growth Fund to businesses which might otherwise have been excluded.
Ministers ruled that the minimum bid to the fund would be £1 million, to prevent the panel being inundated with bids for much smaller amounts of money.
But this created a danger that only larger companies – those making the type of investment that might require support of £1 million or more – would be able to access the funding.
As a result, the Government suggested that businesses with strong local knowledge and ties to the business community in their area should step in and bid for funding, not for themselves but to pass on to small and medium sized firms in their region.
This is what the Birmingham Post has done.
The mechanism for distributing the cash is not yet in place but it’s not something we are going to do all by ourselves. We intend to work with partners in the business community to create a relatively painless process allowing firms to apply for grants and ensuring the money is delivered where it is needed most.
Funding will be available for Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull, three areas which have been particularly dependent on the public sector for employment and therefore are particularly hit by spending cuts.
While we are naturally excited about the role the Birmingham Post will play, it’s also worth celebrating the benefits that other Regional Growth Fund allocations will bring to the region.
As well as being welcome in themselves, the announcements have the added benefit of highlighting the innovative and successful businesses operating in the West Midlands, many of them in manufacturing.
Jaguar Land Rover, which was allocated funding in April, is a world leader in the development of low emission, high performance vehicles.
Elonex, in Worcestershire, is the world’s third largest manufacturer of tablets, after Apple and Samsung.
New techniques to reduce energy consumption in the ceramics industry are being pioneered by Ceram Research Ltd in Staffordshire, while Zytek, also in Staffordshire, is developing powertrains for electric vehicles.
Directly or indirectly, all these firms are involved in manufacturing, and they are proof that Britain can still design and make products which the whole world wants to buy.
The task for the Birmingham Post and our partners now is to ensure more West Midlands firms, whether in manufacturing or other sectors, are able to access funding and continue showing what the region can do.