Gosport MP ‘chuffed’ as firms vie for funding cash

CASH FUND Left, Ken Moon of Wessex Federation of Small Businesses, Stuart Hill, director of Solent LEP and the MP for Gosport Caroline Dinenage at the launch of the Bridging the Gap. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (122044-3)

CASH FUND Left, Ken Moon of Wessex Federation of Small Businesses, Stuart Hill, director of Solent LEP and the MP for Gosport Caroline Dinenage at the launch of the Bridging the Gap. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (122044-3)

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MORE than 100 firms have applied for funding which will see them create jobs in the region and shore up the local economy.

The funding has come from the government, allocated to projects in the country via a pot of cash called the Regional Growth Fund.

In June, £2.1m of that pot was given to the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership to distribute to new companies that need a hand getting started, or small to medium-sized firms which need help expanding.

The Solent LEP’s fund is called Bridging the Gap, and was the brainchild of Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, who called on The News and the LEP to help set it up.

The first round of applications closed this week, with 102 completed forms landing on the doormat of the LEP from companies in Portsmouth, Havant and Gosport.

Of those, 50 were for new businesses, and 52 were from already established firms looking to grow.

The money they have applied for adds up to £4m – double the value of the fund.

Caroline said she was ‘chuffed’ with the amount of interest.

She said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled.

‘Everybody in this area knows we have this great spirit of entrepreneurship, but to see the number of people who have bought into this idea and have got behind it is comforting.

‘It’s encouraging to see there is all this potential out there.

‘This is so important because we all know this country has been in the grip of horrific recession, and the only opportunity we have to get out of it is to grow our way out of it.’

The firms applying for the money had to secure private funding from banks or elsewhere to qualify.

The Solent LEP will now review all the proposals by the end of the month, and the best applicants will then be invited to work up full business plans for investment.

If, after the reviews have taken place, the whole Bridging the Gap fund has not been allocated, there will be a second wave of applications for businesses to get another chance to apply for Regional Growth Fund cash.

Further details will be available following the fund’s panel meeting on August 30.

To find out more about the fund, see solentlep.org.uk

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