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Webber welcomes Vince Cable's £60m boost for small and micro business

October 4, 2012 4:26 PM

Business Secretary Vince Cable has launched a £60 million pot of Regional Growth Fund investment and bank finance at the Community Development Finance Association's (CDFA) annual conference in Birmingham.

The CDFA will receive £30 million from the RGF, matched with a further £30 million by the Co-operative Bank and Unity Trust Bank to provide lending to small, micro and social enterprises. The funding will meet some of the growing demand from small businesses for access to finance and drive investment in often fragmented communities. Up to 8,000 jobs will be created and safeguarded.

Jonathan Webber, the Lib Dem West Midlands Regional Chair, welcomed the news as a significant boost to business.

Jonathan said: "it was excellent that Vince Cable chose to launch this initiative in the West Midlands but no surprise given the commitment and opportunity our region represents. It's an exciting project looking to create and safeguard thousands of jobs in our region and across the UK over the next six years and will assist investment and opportunity in growing and emerging communities."

To see how future projects will be supported through RGF, Vince Cable earlier visited Utensa, a bakeware firm in Tyseley, Birmingham which has already received a loan from the Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART) - a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) and a member of the CDFA. The £30,000 loan has helped Utensa develop its manufacturing facility to improve its competitiveness with the Far East as well as safeguarding jobs for the future and creating jobs for two new machine operators at the company.

Dr Cable then gave the keynote speech at the CDFA's annual conference in Solihull, setting out the important role that CDFIs have in providing credit to under-served markets.

In his address Vince Cable said: "We need effective channels to support small business which is why the CDFA and its members are so important for providing access to finance and kick starting the economy. They are best placed to ensure that the £60 million goes to those SMEs, such as Utensa in Birmingham, that will create jobs and unlock private investment.

"Regional Growth Fund programmes like this one have already awarded SMEs over 500 grants and loans across the country. This is an excellent way to get value for money, but more importantly, it is a good way to focus on local priorities for growth, as most programmes are led by local partners. RGF is leading the way in rebalancing the economy and boosting business and industry."

Ben Hughes, Chief Executive of the CDFA said that by creating 8,000 jobs in some of the most deprived areas of England, this Regional Growth Fund project offered 'remarkable value for money' in boosting sustainable local growth.

"This investment is critical to the survival of many small and micro businesses who, without this support, would simply not exist. It's a milestone, yet just the starting point for an exciting - and timely - expansion of the community finance sector; greater investment like this offers a new way of creating wealth - that's sustainable and ethical yet that also makes sound business sense."

Robert Jones, Managing Director of Utensa in Tyseley, said: "Without support from a CDFI we would not be where we are today. The loan has made a significant difference to our ability to remain competitive and helped to put the company on a firm footing for the future."

Steve Walker, Chief Executive of Aston Reinvestment Trust said: "With this support from the RGF, we look forward to helping hundreds more small businesses in Birmingham and Solihull to protect or create jobs. We are here to support businesses that are unable to access any or all of the finance they need directly from a bank, whatever sector they are operating in. Our remit is to help to boost the local economy."

Keith Alderson, Managing Director, Corporate and Business Banking, The Co-operative Bank, said: "As a co-operative, we fully understand the important role small businesses play in communities by creating and sustaining jobs and helping to develop local economies. We are delighted to be supporting CDFA and the Regional Growth Fund, with this innovative and exciting initiative. It will deliver much needed finance right in the heart of communities."