A business loans scheme has been launched to help firms struggling to secure finance from banks.
THINKING BIG: Left to right, Mr Steve Blount from the Think BIG project; leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council Mr Roger Blaney; the council’s business manager for economic growth Julie Reader-Sullivan; and small business director at Timico Sandra Hine. 070313DM1-6
Think BIG (Business Invest-ment for Growth) is Newark and Sherwood District Council’s loans scheme for growing businesses.
Representatives of around 50 companies attended Timico Data Centre at Brunel Business Park, Newark, to hear how the £2m project could help them expand.
Loans could be available to companies in the district that employ more than five people and have a turnover of more than £250,000.
The leader of the district council, Mr Roger Blaney, said banks weren’t lending at the moment and the council’s key strategic priority was prosperity.
He said Think BIG could expand to become a regional scheme if more councils followed their lead.
Loans will be from £25,000 to £150,000 and on a three-year repayment scheme on a comparable interest rate to the banks of 6% to 8%.
Think BIG is aimed at the manufacturing, engineering, food, processing and distribution industries rather than retail.
Mr Blaney said it would not be operated by councillors but sector professionals, and the idea was that it would be self-sustaining.
One of the board members is Mr Tony Hillary, the former owner of Hillary’s Blinds which he started from his kitchen at home in 1971.
The company grew to hold a 20% share of the UK blinds market with 950 employees, 750 freelance salespeople, 19 shops and a wholesale business, with an annual advertising budget of £11.5m.
Mr Hillary, who sold the company for £62m, will be joined by three retired senior bankers.
The former owner of Games Workshop, Mr Chris Prentice, who is chairman of Trekmates and the toy soldier company, Mantic Entertainments, also spoke at the Think BIG launch.
“Working capital just isn’t out there at the moment, which is why this scheme ticks all of the boxes for me,” he said.
Mr Blaney listed recent success stories in the district such as the dualling of the A46 between Newark and Widmerpool, and the £680m gas-fired Staythorpe Power Station.
He highlighted the £50m Pott- erdyke redevelopment scheme, which saw Asda open in Newark and a new Lombard Street Surgery built, one of only a few large retail-led schemes to be completed nationally since the 2008 economic slump.
He said the council was investing in a number of major projects including the national civil war museum for Newark, and the planned leisure centre and sports hub for Elm Avenue in the town, which will cost a combined £20m.
Mr Blaney, however, warned that traditional industries in Newark and Sherwood were in decline.
He said in the west of the district the major employer had been the mining industry, and in the east it had been engineering.
He said tourism was now the major employer, with Newark Market Place, Newark Castle, Southwell Workhouse and the new visitor centre the county council would build in Sherwood Forest among the attractions.