Chairman's Blog: The LEP can help your business grow

As the schools prepare to welcome back their pupils for the start of a new academic year and offices refill after the summer break, I can feel that “back to work” buzz in the air across the Leeds City Region.

It has been a busy summer. My political colleagues on the LEP Board have been working tirelessly on plans for a further devolution deal for the region. This is an important step forward for us, and the North as a whole, to ensure that decisions on investment to boost jobs and growth are driven by local priorities, local knowledge and local leadership. We have already shown how locally led schemes deliver better, faster, more cost effective results rather than a one-size-fits-all national approach. The LEP’s grant funding programme, for example, has created jobs at an average cost of £7,142 per job versus £33,000 per job for the national Regional Growth Fund. The submission of a devolution deal for the Leeds City Region will enable us to have even greater impact and begin making the Northern Powerhouse a reality.

Locally led programmes deliver impact

The devolution proposals we submitted to government last week will help us do more to boost growth among the City Region’s small and medium-sized enterprises, but we are already making great strides. At the start of the summer, we launched a new service to help SMEs find the right support and funding to grow, and hundreds of businesses across the city region have already contacted us for help. Research shows that businesses that take advantage of independent advice or support are more likely to grow than businesses that don’t. A wide range of support is available to businesses at all stages of their growth journey but knowing where to find the right support can often be the hardest part. That is where the LEP can help.

Business finance to stimulate growth

Our recent business survey confirmed the greatest barriers to growth for an SME are access to suitable finance and access to skills. It is no surprise therefore that the main enquiries we have received so far are around these two areas of support.

The LEP’s grant funding programme is available to help small and medium-sized businesses expand and create jobs. With funding from £10,000 up to £500,000 we can support projects and investments of all sizes across the whole Leeds City Region to grow and create jobs. Loan funding is also available from the LEP and, through our website and telephone helpline, we can help businesses explore other sources of funding support, depending on their business goals.

Skills and business growth go hand in hand

Skills and business growth go hand in hand and companies that invest in skills are more likely to succeed than those that don’t. Our team has been working with businesses in the region to source training for employees and support the businesses overall ambition for growth. Our recent business survey told us that 36% of businesses highlight a skills gap in sales and marketing and since March our skills team have worked with 20 businesses to find bespoke training in this area. One such business - Blueberry Marketing Solutions, a business-to-business telemarketing agency in Leeds - was able to address their skills gaps as a result of our skills funding, and has helped to make training more accessible for their employees.

More and more businesses in our region are opting to grow their own talent by taking on an apprentice, and financial incentives are now available for businesses who take on an apprentice between August and December 2015. Support is also available through our partners to help SMEs take the first steps to finding an apprentice that is right for their business.

Package of support to help you grow

As the green shoots of growth begin to establish firm roots I can feel a shift in pace and determination in the region, with businesses more eager to grow and develop. The LEP now has a full package of support available designed by business owners who have already been on a journey of extraordinary growth to meet the need of SMEs especially. If those businesses don’t grow, our region will not fulfil its true economic potential so I would like to encourage all those firms who are ambitious for growth to contact the LEP today to see how we can help you.