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28 January 2013

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Malcolm Edge, Chairman of North West Business Finance, which manages The North West Fund

Malcolm EdgeI'm very proud to be writing this as the new chairman of North West Business Finance at the beginning of what is an important year for The North West Fund.

We are now just over two years into The Fund and it is an exciting time for us and our fund managers. Companies which attracted investment in 2011 and 2012 are growing, winning new orders and creating new jobs. Some have already received follow-on investment and are well on their way to becoming established businesses that are positively contributing to the North West economy.

A notable achievement for us is in relation to the number of manufacturing businesses The Fund has supported. Manufacturing is a key priority sector for the North West and all of our fund managers are keen to invest in North West manufacturing businesses. We are delighted that so far over 20% of the businesses we have supported with funding are in the manufacturing sector.

As you know, The Fund has undergone some changes in the past few months but we now have a settled senior team in place. We are absolutely determined to push The Fund forward and are committed to creating a strong and sustainable legacy in the North West, whilst at the same time, inspiring and supporting our entrepreneurs.

A fundamental part of the work we do is based on building relationships directly with entrepreneurs. Our fund managers work hard across the region, attending a wide variety of events in order to meet inspiring entrepreneurs with exciting business growth plans. Our website is also an essential element in the application process and we will be working to develop this over the coming months.

For me, as Chairman, an important part of my role will be to keep an open  dialogue with our partners. The Fund has done this very well so far, with a packed calendar of events, along with communications like this, to keep our stakeholders up to date. However, I believe there is always an opportunity for improvement.

Our private sector partners, such as banks and other intermediaries, have played a key role in the success of The North West Fund. Alongside the £43million invested by The Fund so far, a separate £27m has been secured from the private sector. This is clear evidence of how  The Fund has been able to help SMEs unlock private finance.

I am keen that we remain very close to our public sector partners, too. Universities have been hugely significant in several investments so far and they are a vital breeding ground for the entrepreneurs of the future. We also value enormously the input of MPs and councillors who can help us spread the great news from The Fund and highlight the important role it is playing.

Looking ahead to 2013, we feel optimistic and confident, with a target of £35m to invest in businesses in the region this year. We believe 2013 will be the best year yet for The North West Fund.

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