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04 December 2015

Finance for smaller businesses is key to fuelling growth in the North West.

Britain’s smaller businesses are an important part of our nation’s economy, and the North West has in many ways epitomised the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit.



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Britain's smaller businesses are an important part of our nation's economy, and the North West has in many ways epitomised the UK's entrepreneurial spirit.


From the factories that fuelled the industrial revolution, to the start-ups, commercial enterprises and tech businesses that are now fuelling the northern powerhouse, the region has a proud history of enterprise.


Today, the North West's economy is worth £141 billion, and the area is a hub of businesses innovation and opportunity. From logistical strengths to world-class mentorship, the North West repeatedly comes up trumps for supporting great new businesses. This is borne out by the fact that around half a million smaller businesses operate in the region, 43% of which intend to grow over the coming 12 months.


The North West continues to hold exceptional economic potential, and for these growing businesses, access to finance is crucial to ensuring they can realise their growth ambitions. Many are turning to the high street banks and, in Q2 2015, over £2bn of new bank loans were issued to small businesses in the North West - a welcome 7% increase on the previous year. But other non-traditional options such as alternative finance providers, asset finance and equity finance are increasingly playing their part in increasing the sources of finance available to businesses. 


The British Business Bank plays a key role in ensuring that there is increased supply, diversity and awareness of the different types of finance available.


Over 40,000 businesses across the country are accessing over £2.4 billion of British Business Bank-supported funding through our diverse range of 80 commercial partners. Businesses apply for finance through our partners, who we enable to lend and invest more - especially to younger and faster-growing companies. In the North West alone, we are supporting over 2,600 businesses with over £550 million of vital lending and investment.


Preston-based Lumenata Lighting Design is a great example of one of these businesses. It had experienced a problematic 2014, with existing finance arrangements unsuitable for their expansion plans. British Business Bank funding, delivered through UFG - a local partner - helped enable a new factoring facility of £100,000, allowing the company to progress with its growth plans. Lumenata Lighting Design has since won a number of major contracts, leading to a dramatic increase in turnover, and today the company is thriving.


This is just one example of how the British Business Bank enables local funding, and it does so across a wide spectrum - from start-up loans of up to £25,000 - through the Start Up Loans company - to help to get great ideas off the ground, through 'scale-up' finance for businesses in the rapid-growth phase, to finance to help established companies stay ahead through working or expansion capital.


We are strongly committed to supporting local finance providers. Kingsway Asset Finance, based in south Manchester, is one of the UK's longest established independent asset finance and leasing companies specialising in serving the SME market. Earlier this year our commercial arm - British Business Bank Investments Ltd - committed a £5m investment to Kingsway, enabling them to increase their lending capacity to £10m for smaller businesses looking for hire purchase, leasing or professions loans.


We also want local businesses to have access to relevant and up-to-date information about the finance options available to them. The British Business Bank's Finance Guide - published in conjunction with the ICAEW and available for free on our website - sets out the funding choices available and what businesses need to consider at each step along their funding journey.


The British Business Bank brings expertise and UK government money to smaller business finance markets to make them work more effectively. By doing so, we help smaller businesses to invest and grow, creating additional jobs and economic activity in the North West, and our partners like The North West Fund have the local knowledge and relationships to catalyse promising local businesses' growth and cultivate their success.


Ken Cooper

Ken Cooper is Managing Director, Venture Capital at the British Business Bank


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