Led by the Humber LEP and supported by a whole host of public, private and voluntary sector organisations, it will bring together in one place information about business support in the Humber and provide access to impartial advice.
One of the most common complaints from businesses throughout our consultations over the past two years has been that the business support landscape is confusing.
Whether it is training and apprenticeships, grants and loans, or trade and exports, businesses have said that navigating the plethora of local and national programmes and organisations to work out where to go for what they actually need is just too hard.
When the evidence shows that businesses which access support grow faster, we can see that this situation is not just frustrating – it is holding back growth.
Of course, this is not a new problem and previous solutions have come and gone with variable success.
In designing our approach with business, we have sought to learn from experience and not repeat past mistakes. So we are keeping it simple and focusing our much more limited resources on the two areas where they can make the most difference.
First, we are collecting information on all publicly and privately funded business support on offer in the Humber and publishing it freely online in one place.
Our easy-to-use website goes live this week for beta testing, and will help businesses to find what they need in the fastest possible time.
We’re keen to receive feedback to help us develop the website, and information from more support organisations to add to what is there.
We’re also regularly bringing together local business advisers to help them stay on top of what is available, and funding eight additional advisers to increase capacity in existing organisations.
The Business Support Helpline can also provide information on support on offer in the Humber and quick answers to common queries.
Secondly, we are starting to fill in the gaps in the support that is available and enhance some services so they better meet the needs of our area.
For example, we have commissioned MAS to work with larger enterprises to understand their supply chain opportunities and offer support.
They will also work with SMEs to help them be aware of relevant opportunities that have been mapped and help them become ‘supply chain ready’.
We have added £1m to our Growing the Humber grant programme, which continues to go from strength to strength, and reduced the minimum application to £5,000.
We hope more small businesses will now be able to benefit from the programme which has already supported 80 businesses which are expected to create up to 1,500 jobs, with decisions made by our panel of businesspeople.
Working with the Acorn Fund, we are also now able to offer start-up grants of up to £5,000 to support more people to pursue their business ideas.
We have been able to put in place this extra support, and fast-track our work on the information hub, through support we negotiated through the Hull and Humber City Deal - £2.5m from the Regional Growth Fund, through a programme managed by Lancaster University, is helping us to get things underway.
It is good news for the Humber that Government has again recognised our growth potential and backed our plans to realise it, building on the success we have had with our Enterprise Zones and grant and loan programmes.
We are working now to secure additional resources to continue this support from the Local Growth Fund and European Regional Development Fund, alongside the considerable effort and resources being contributed by the public, private and voluntary sectors in the Humber.
It is an exciting time for the Humber economy. Confidence is rising, and many businesses are thinking about what they might need to realise their growth plans.
We hope that through the Growth Hub we can make it easier for more of them to succeed.