Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has congratulated a specialist loan fund as it hits more than £5m in new loans.
The Small Business Loan Fund was launched just over three years ago to provide access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to develop their business, but find it difficult to access funding through traditional sources.
It is managed by Ulster Community Investment plc (UCI) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCI is a subsidiary of social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA said: “Access to finance is often the main obstacle for businesses starting up and growing. This fund has helped its clients generate an extra £26.5m in sales and create 144 new jobs across 260 companies which is an important step in helping our economy to grow. Our economy is reliant on small business, therefore helping them with access to finance is hugely important.”
Harry McDaid, UCIT’s CEO said: “SMEs and social enterprises are the bedrock of Northern Ireland’s economy, but it has proven increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs in the sector to secure finance from traditional sources. Demand, however, is clearly there, with over 260 loans provided to date and rising.
“The Fund is still open with facilities of up to £50,000 available. As a revolving fund it’s expected that between £7m and £8m will be made available in total over the Fund’s lifetime.”
Michael Carlin from Enterprise Northern Ireland added: “This Fund has enabled many small businesses to pursue projects that otherwise would not have happened. It has encouraged business growth through new product development, export sales and employment. The recent interim evaluation report clearly shows the positive impact the Fund has on the economy and demand continues to grow.
“For many SMEs winning new sales and business is not the problem. Growth, however, brings greater demands for working capital and infrastructural investment to support efficiency and sustainability. The Fund aims to meet these needs where banks or other alternative providers cannot – ensuring business expansion and increased employment.”
Notes to editors:
- Clients have included Dungannon-based DGR Group, a family firm that designs and manufactures high-end audio equipment and cables for sale globally and Stephen Blakely Design from Banbridge, specialists in architectural and interior design, and the manufacture of bespoke furnishings, window dressings and upholstery furniture.
- County Antrim-based ‘Creative De-Signs NI’ which designs and manufactures bespoke signage for trade and corporate clients in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland also received support. The company received funding to purchase new machinery which has helped treble turnover and double staff levels.
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