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27 July 2012

Energy business is The North West Fund’s 100th investment

Press Release 27th July 2012

The North West Fund has completed its 100th investment by providing equity and loan facilities to PlaceFirst, an innovative energy and regeneration business.

The investment, provided through sub-fund, The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental, managed by CT Investment Partners, will be used to fund the growth of the business in two of its key markets, remodelling rundown neighbourhoods and empty homes to create affordable housing and retrofitting renewable energy in the social housing sector.

PlaceFirst is the 100thcompany to receive funding from The North West Fund and takes the amount invested by The Fund since December 2010 to almost £30m. The funding is provided jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.

PlaceFirst, based in Didsbury, Manchester, was formed in 2009 as a consultancy firm in the physical housing regeneration and renewable energy sectors. The business has evolved to a point where it now invests alongside its traditional clients, including landlords in the social housing sector. It was among the first private businesses in England to finance and install large-scale solar PV projects across social housing.

The funding will support the delivery of future projects while enabling the expansion of its professional team. 

PlaceFirst is currently working on an innovative project that will transform over 100 empty
terraced properties in Accrington into energy-efficient, affordable family homes.

CT Investment Partners, managers of The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental also advises the Carbon Trust on its venture capital activities and is one of the most experienced investors in this sector.

David Smith-Milne, owner of PlaceFirst, said: "The partnership with The North West Fund and CT Investment Partners is an important step in the growth of our business. Working together, our objective is to establish PlaceFirst as the partner of choice for public organisations that need ideas and funding to unlock difficult regeneration and energy projects.

"The managerial support from CT Investment Partners will be extremely valuable in the expansion of our business. Demand for our services is extremely high at the moment. The Government's focus on the supply of affordable housing, tackling empty homes and improving domestic energy efficiency in existing housing stock places us in a really strong position to grow."

Michael Bakewell, investment manager at CT Investment Partners, said: "The retrofit and refurbishment market within energy efficiency and renewables in social housing has taken off in recent years and is set to grow even further with initiatives such as 'Green Deal' and
ECO that will revolutionise energy use in homes across Britain.

"PlaceFirst is a fantastic business that is well-placed to be at the forefront of the energy and regeneration market for affordable and social housing in the North of England."

John McGuire, Interim Chief Executive at North West Business Finance Ltd, the business set up to deliver The North West Fund said, "The 100th investment is a significant milestone in the life of The Fund's programme. This investment by our Energy & Environmental Fund reflects the uniqueness of The North West Fund in its ability to support specialist and general businesses that are destined to add value to the region's prosperity."

Didsbury MP John Leech has welcomed the investment. He said: "I am pleased that an organisation based in Didsbury is the 100th company benefiting from The North West Fund. I support the work of The Fund, which is helping small and medium sized businesses to grow and create jobs."

Michael Bakewell has been appointed to the board of the company with immediate effect.

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