Thirty-six businesses from across County Durham are the first recipients of the Durham Business Recovery Grant scheme to help them implement recovery plans to overcome the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new £5 million grant funded by Durham County Council, which was launched on January 14, is aimed at those businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis who are developing credible plans to meet the challenges the pandemic has caused, for example by developing new products or entering new markets.
To date, over £364,000 has been awarded to 36 businesses of varying size from a range of sectors including business services, construction, healthcare, information and communication, retail and hospitality, manufacturing and engineering, and tourism with many more applications being considered. Two-thirds of the applications approved to date are to businesses in the tourism, hospitality, leisure and retail sectors which have been severely impacted by the pandemic. The applications, which have been received from across the county, will help to safeguard up to 459 jobs.
Some of the successful recipients include a specialist printing company enabling them to buy new software and associated training to help staff improve order processing and convert leads; a hearing aid retailer who has bought specialist diagnostic equipment that will help it to provide a wider range of services; and a hotel which has been given finance to invest in new catering equipment to target different markets.
The grant scheme, overseen by Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, offers businesses with a clear recovery plan, grants from £1,000 up to a maximum of £40,000 and will contribute 75% towards eligible recovery plan costs, with the applicants expected to meet a quarter of the project cost.
Applications for the Durham Business Recovery Grant scheme are ongoing, with businesses encouraged to take time to develop a robust recovery plan before applying.
There has been a high demand for the grants with over 320 applications received during the first month since the scheme was launched, with over £4m of funding still available to companies providing they meet the eligibility criteria.
The scheme is open to companies across County Durham, in all sectors and varying in size from micro-businesses to those employing up to 250 people in the County. Businesses must also have been established prior to March 11, 2020. Most applications are determined in under a month although larger, more complex applications will take a little longer.
Businesses can apply for the grant to support changes to the business or operational models which may incur costs to implement including adaptations to premises, new product development or the cost of new machinery. The funding cannot be used for acquiring premises, purchase non-specialist vehicles, or for stock.
Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are really pleased to see the range of businesses that are coming forward with clear plans for how the recovery grant can help them get their business back on track for the future and safeguard vital jobs and livelihoods in the County. We appreciate how difficult the last year has been for businesses and it is vital that we do what we can to help businesses recover and look to the future.
“This is why Durham County Council agreed to provide a substantial £5 million worth of support for the Durham Business Recovery Grant Scheme, demonstrating our commitment to local businesses, enabling them to adapt and thrive, safeguarding jobs and developing a sustainable economy for the long term.”
Sarah Slaven, interim Managing Director of Business Durham, said: “Over the past year County Durham businesses have displayed significant resilience, tremendous agility, adaptability and innovation, which has enabled many to diversify to survive by selling to new markets and manufacturing different products.
“The grant allows businesses with credible plans to unlock their potential providing the much-needed funds to take advantage of their vision in tackling the ongoing crisis. We encourage businesses to look carefully at the criteria and take time to develop a credible plan to maximize the likelihood of success. The grant is proving popular with many more applications to process and we continue to welcome more from all business sectors.”
For further information on the Business Recovery Grant and to check eligibility criteria, visit www.businessdurham.co.uk/dbrg.