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Determination strong among SMEs despite uncertainty, says North East Fund

The North East Fund has reported a rise in the number of SMEs enquiring about accessing funding to grow their operations, despite a lack of certainty among businesses UK-wide.

The Fund, which is a £120 million programme supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), recently hit a milestone of 150 investments totalling £25 million in northern SMEs.

On a visit to the region last week, Mike Cherry, the Federation of Small Business national chair, said: “The ongoing Brexit debate has led to political paralysis in the UK which has transferred to many businesses holding back on investment.”

He added: “Everything seems to be on hold in so many places, whether it’s investment in business or local authorities investing [in their region] — it’s all on hold.”

The findings of increased interest in growth from the North East Fund are in direct contrast to the current outlook for small business across the UK, which is currently very uncertain.

Jason Hobbs, CEO of the North East Fund, said: “We are seeing a sustained number of enquiries from local businesses across the region, from Northumberland down to County Durham, seeking investment to grow and this is very encouraging given the current economic climate surrounding Brexit.

“Whilst the FSB is correct in relation to the general feeling within the wider business community, the North East has always had a determination to succeed so we are seeing some great businesses coming through seeking funding.

“With that in mind, I remain optimistic about the region’s future.”

“As a Fund, we are fully committed to supporting the ambition of all businesses in the North East regardless of size or sector.

“Whilst many SMEs are at the forefront of their industry driving forward innovation on a global stage, an increasing number of our investments have been allocated to smaller, owner-managed enterprises operating in more ‘traditional’ sectors around the region.”

“It is these companies that play an integral role in supply chain industries and the North East economy.”

“By enabling access to funding for companies of all sizes, we have delivered significant opportunities with companies pushing ahead with their growth plans.

“Hitting 150 investments is a great achievement and whilst we have more to come, it proves that access to finance is essential for the region’s SMEs as well as the next generation of entrepreneurs to allow them to continue their growth trajectories.”