Leeds City Region launches £600,000 SME growth service

L-R: Tim Parkinson, Airedale Springs; Victoria Boldison, Principle Healthcare; Roger Marsh, LEP chairman; Gori Yahaya, Google; Eric Hawthorn, Radio Design; Melanie Oldham, Bob's Business; Adam Beaumont, aql.
L-R: Tim Parkinson, Airedale Springs; Victoria Boldison, Principle Healthcare; Roger Marsh, LEP chairman; Gori Yahaya, Google; Eric Hawthorn, Radio Design; Melanie Oldham, Bob's Business; Adam Beaumont, aql.
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Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has launched an SME growth service, which aims to make accessing support easier.

The scheme will offer a single point of contact for businesses looking for help in funding, export, apprenticeships, research and development and skills.

A team of 10 growth managers, based around the region, will direct firms to existing schemes available from the LEP and other organisations, including UK Trade and Investment.

The service has received £600,000 funding from central government for one year through the Department for Business, Skills and Innovations’ growth hubs scheme.

Leeds City Region chairman Roger Marsh said the LEP hopes to reach a fifth of all SMEs in the region through the new service.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “Our ambition is that we will reach and touch at least 20,000 of these businesses across the city region, which out of 109,000 is roughly 20 per cent.

“People might say that’s very ambitious, I would say that’s a good challenge. I’d also say I think it’s realistic.”

Mr Marsh said that while there are 25 growth hubs in the UK, the LEP considers its growth service to be different.

“It will integrate all the various support opportunities in the city region, but more importantly it will scale up what we’ve done to date.

“The statistics tell their own story: modest funding for 400 businesses across the city region will create 5,000 jobs,” he said.

“But that’s not the end, that’s the beginning.”

The service’s launch at the Google Digital Garage in Leeds was attended by businesses that have worked with or received support from the LEP, including Airedale Springs, Principle Healthcare, Radio Design, Bob’s Business and Aql.

Eric Hawthorne, managing director of Radio Design and LEP board member, said the service would. He said: “I have a business that started in 2007. I did want support, and I found support, but I had to really go digging. It’s a very complex landscape out there.

“This growth service really simplifies that and provides a one-stop shop for businesses.”

It is also hoped the growth service can address businesses’ concerns over the difficulty of accessing LEP support.

Mr Marsh said: “I understand the difficulties - what we’re trying to do is take that challenge away from individual businesses and make it as light touch and as simple as possible.”

However, he added that the LEP must still assess funding applications with rigour to ensure taxpayer money is spent appropriately.

While the service only has one year of funding from BIS, the LEP plans for it to continue, using its own resources if necessary, Mr Marsh added.

“This isn’t a one-year service,” he said. “We’re looking to sustain the model through from our own resources. When it is the success we want it to be, it would be difficult to then not keep it going, whether that’s with or without central government’s help.”