AN organisation that helped businesses in Hampshire get access to funding and expertise for the past two decades has ceased trading.
The Hampshire Economic Partnership (HEP) has blamed ‘significant financial challenges’ for its closure, including the disbanding of its major investor, the South East England Development Agency, and public sector cuts.
The move also follows the creation of a new Hampshire Business Alliance – announced recently to bring together the HEP, the Southern Enterprise Alliance and the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.
Dick Oram, deputy chairman of the HEP, said: ‘The Hampshire Economic Partnership is proud of what it has achieved for Hampshire and its businesses over many years and we know that this work will continue through the new alliance in co-operation with partner organisations, including the Local Enterprise Partnerships.’
The alliance, which was launched in November, was supposed to consolidate the three organisations into one – and to strip away any services or resources that overlapped.
Now, it will have to carry on the work the HEP has done during the past 20 years, bringing together business, local authorities, and regional funding agencies to promote economic growth in Hampshire.
Its work has included organising conferences, applying for European Union funding and holding ‘meet the buyer events’ where small companies can be put in touch with the buyers of large organisations.
It is hoped that as much of this work as possible will be carried on by the new alliance.
Mr Oram added: ‘What we have accomplished is testimony to the hard work and dedication of HEP’s staff, together with the voluntary members of the task groups, all of whom have the board’s sincere thanks for all they have done to support the company.’
Hampshire County Council has pledged to be fully behind the new alliance in light of the closure of the HEP.
Cllr Ray Ellis, executive member for economic development and rural affairs, added: ‘Hampshire County Council will support the new arrangements in every way.’
An official liquidator is to be appointed to look after the Hampshire Economic Partnerships’ affairs.