The Marches Growth Hub:
Supporting your business
It has been a year like no other for the Marches Growth Hub – the Marches LEP’s business support service.
The impact of Covid meant businesses turned to the hub for support, advice, information and access to funding in record numbers.
The three physical hubs – delivered by local authority partners at Hereford, Shrewsbury and Telford – quickly found themselves taking on a key role helping businesses navigate their way through the pandemic and helping keep the region’s workforce safe.
Events, seminars and workshops were moved online and emphasis switched to providing information about the range of help being offered by both Government and regional and local partners, as well as the LEP itself.
The virtual hub meanwhile became the business community’s essential source of information about measures relating to the pandemic, often publishing the latest information before even the Government’s own channels.
The help given to business by the growth hub last year is revealed in some compelling statistics: 30,277 businesses received some level of support, there were 30,663 unique visitors to the website and nearly 6,000 businesses took part in our virtual events.
Traditional business support also continued – with Marches SMEs having access to 19 EU funded business support projects with a total value of over £19.5m.
The four largest EU schemes – Business Energy Efficiency Programme, Business Growth Programme, Marches Buildings Investment Grant and Broadband Grants – awarded a combined £3.5m to Marches businesses between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. The EU investment will lead to the anticipated creation of 210 jobs.
The hub also works with the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) to ensure alternative routes to finance are available to businesses across the region, supporting the Marches LEP’s investment in the fund. MEIF was awarded a new £400m funding allocation in the November budget, bringing its total investment in the Midlands Engine to more than £700m. Examples of successful applications for funding through MEIF in the last 12 months include north Shropshire animal and equine bedding company Cardboard Bedding Limited, which secured £180,000.
The hub extended its support throughout Covid, with an extra 45 specialist advisers supplementing its team and providing one-to-one support for 178 businesses, far in excess of their targets.
The hub and Marches LEP supported the launch of the fully-funded Peer Networks Programme – which proved so successful when launched during lockdown that it is being repeated again this year. The programme brings together leaders of small businesses across the region to share experiences and best practice with each other and also receive expert one-to-one help from a business adviser. Companies which successfully engaged with the initial programme – and warmly praised it – include RJ Joinery and Equestrian Services of Hay on Wye, Oswestry-based Martin & Jones Marketing and M3 Consulting of Telford.