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Business & Economy

Open North Foundation launched to support businesses affected by COVID-19

North East businesses and lead organisations have come together to create a new not-for-profit and raise funds to support companies recovering from COVID-19.

The newly launched Open North Foundation is calling on businesses and individuals throughout the region to pledge financial support as part of a private sector led initiative to rebuild the local economy.

Businesses that can deliver a long-term positive economic impact and create high quality jobs will be considered for the support, with grants of between £1000 and £5000 made available, subject to funds being raised.

Alongside the financial support, Open North Foundation hopes to provide technical assistance, business advice and consultancy to enterprises and entrepreneurs adversely affected by the pandemic.

Founder and chair of the foundation is Richard Swart, global sales director at Berger Group and vice chair is Colin Hewitt, partner at Ward Hadaway.

Directors includes Teesside entrepreneur, Claire Preston, Barclays area business manager, David Foreman, director of Wessington Cryogenics, Gill Courtney, director of Stephenson-Mohl Group, Mark Stephenson and MHA Tait Walker director, Paul Shields.

Richard Swart said: “At the peak of the pandemic, it was truly inspiring to witness how the business community reacted instantly to the call for help coming from the Government for the supply of ventilators and PPE.

“My company (Berger Group Europe) and I did want to make a real contribution to the pandemic and so the concept of providing financial and other support to aid the region’s recovery has resulted in the launch of Open North Foundation, following extensive consultation with business leaders in the region.

“The urgent priority now is to raise sufficient levels of funding before grants can be handed out. We have significant pledges already.

“I am delighted to have attracted top quality directors and experienced businesspeople from a range of fields, underlining our commitment to strong corporate governance and oversight and I hope to add others in due course.”

Open North Foundation director Claire Preston added: “The North East has a remarkable business community. One which is supportive and cohesive, populated by defiant, ambitious and determined people wanting the best for each other and the region.

“We now need the people of the North East to rally and offer support and encouragement to our entrepreneurs, our employers of the future, to recognise and value their vital contribution to the local economy and provide an essential lifeline so that they are able to weather this storm.

“I’m honoured to join others on the board of Open North Foundation in this mission to bridge the gap for businesses struggling as a result of Covid-19 and ensuring that success stories prevail for as many as possible.”

James Kyle, investment director at Rathbones Investment Management, is an ambassador for the Open North Foundation.

He said: “Rathbones is delighted to support this welcomed initiative to provide financial assistance to businesses in the North East suffering from the impact of COVID-19.

“As one of the country’s leading investment managers and a FTSE250 company with over 250 years of history, responsibility is at the core of our values and we recognise the need to provide support to the local economy and community to assist those businesses most impacted by the current crisis.”