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Wiltshire economy gets a £1m Christmas present

The Wiltshire economy has been handed an early Christmas present this week – in the form of a £1m government grant.

The £1m Regional Growth Fund, which was secured by Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, will be invested to support for growing businesses in the area.

A consortium that includes the local Chambers of Commerce at its core – Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce, Swindon Chamber of Commerce and Business West – will work with other national organisations, including the Technology Strategy Board, UK Trade and Investment and the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service to develop a Business Growth Hub in the area.

The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has contracted with Lancaster University as part of the Government’s City Deal initiative to provide a £32m programme to support business growth across the 20 City Deal (Wave 2) areas.

Businesses will need to make their own significant investment in their growth plans to be eligible for support and the two local authorities are also aligning their economic development interventions as part of the match funding needed to secure the investment.

The Gateway for Growth hub will have two elements: a web-based portal that will signpost businesses to the national/local schemes that are available to support business growth
, and an intensive programme of support where businesses will be able to have up to a third of their costs covered when investing in growth that creates and safeguards jobs and improves their productivity and competitiveness.

And the programme will focus on three specific areas: developing new markets (exporting)
; developing new products/processes (innovation)
; and developing Leadership and Management Capacity.

The core delivery partners for the project will be the Chambers of Commerce, which will develop and strengthen their networks with the businesses benefiting from the programme along with the business and finance professionals that support them.

The programme will initially run until March 2015, but the LEP is keen to see this develop beyond that as part of the 2015/20 Growth Deal programme that is currently being negotiated with government.