Recovery grants boost Greater Manchester businesses
- Friday, November 5, 2021
- Posted By The Growth Company
The Growth Company excels in providing emergency business support
When in July 2020 the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government announced £20 million of new funding to help businesses across England get back on track, the Growth Company was quick to step forward to help deliver the programme across the Manchester city region.
The 100% funding would allow small and medium sized business, with 250 employees or less, to access COVID-19 recovery grants of up to £3,000 for new equipment and technology, and specialist advice. Payments would be defrayed, with companies paying upfront before reclaiming the money.
The grant programme was funded by ERDF and allocated to Growth Hubs within each LEP area in England. Its purpose was to help businesses recover and become more productive, with central government also stressing that there was an urgency to ensure the funding reached those businesses that had been hit hardest by the pandemic, as quickly as possible.
To deliver the grants, the GC Business Growth Hub (BGH) established a new COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Team.
The opportunity to apply for the funding was advertised on the BGH website between August and September, and over 1600 Expressions of Interest (EOIs) were received, with the service four times over-subscribed. Companies were asked to supply basic details online, which allowed the team do carry out an initial sift of applications in order to help speed up the process.
The team then undertook a large-scale scoring exercise in order to determine the eligibility and suitability of each project. As well as being measured against ERDF criteria, each EOI was also assessed on its projected productivity impacts and the number of jobs it would safeguard. Other elements taken into consideration were company size, turnover, the number of employees and sector.
“There were strict criteria that we had to apply, and the compliance element was as robust as any other funding we provide,” explained team leader Isabella Butterwick. “But at the same time, we had to be sensitive with businesses who were going through an incredibly difficult time.”
Supporting the visitor economy
It was also important that the grants went to a cross section of businesses, with the team working to ensure that 25% of the companies that received support came from the visitor economy, which had been particularly hard hit by the lockdown
Following detailed conversations with the companies that had been deemed eligible, businesses were formerly invited to apply for the grant.
“An important part of our approach was to help successful companies through the application process,” said Butterwick. “Applying for public funding was a totally new experience to most of these businesses. We set out to make it as easy as possible, making sure our messaging as clear, explaining things in a common-sense way and cutting through the jargon and.
“We developed a strong relationship with all the businesses and made sure that at every stage they had a dedicated person to speak to. Without that approach, I don’t think we’d have been able to get the results we did.”
Safeguarding businesses and jobs
Over a six month period, the team helped 399 business across Greater Manchester to access £1.26 million in recovery grants. The funding helped to safeguard sales of over £15 million, while creating new revenue of nearly £5.5m, as well as protecting 761 jobs, against a target of 484, and creating a further 48, against a target of two. And of the businesses that received support, 28% were from the visitor economy, again exceeding targets.
The team also made sure that those businesses that missed out weren’t left in limbo, adds Butterwick. “We knew from the start that not every business would be successful but we didn’t want them to feel abandoned. So we made sure that at every stage of the process we had a really soft landing for them, and wherever possible we referred them onto other emergency COVID support and programmes run by the Hub.”