BUSINESSES in a Black Country borough struggling to get finance for growth have been boosted by the expansion of a loan fund for SMEs.
The £1m Sandwell Business Loan Fund (SBLF) is managed by Black Country Reinvestment Society (BCRS) in conjunction with Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.
It was introduced in 2009 as a £750,000 fund available to Sandwell based businesses experiencing difficulty accessing funds from banks.
It has now been increased to £1m to reflect the difficulties faced by SMEs looking to develop.
Since launch, the scheme has helped 19 small businesses with an average loan amount of £22,000. Loans of between £10k and £50k are available to viable Sandwell based businesses.
Cllr Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “Sandwell Council will continue to invest in this project because we feel it is of real advantage to small businesses in this area.
“I am trying to position the council to a point where we are ready to support entrepreneurs and businesses in Sandwell when the economic downturn turns the corner, so we will be ready to help companies create the jobs and wealth we need to become a more affluent borough for the future.”
The council is now encouraging its fellow Black Country boroughs – Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley – to follow suit.
The move is in part to combat the West Midlands’ rising unemployment levels – currently the second worst in the UK.
Paul Kalinauckas, chief executive of BCRS, said; “We’ve proved the success of the Sandwell Business Loan Fund and are now extending it by another £1m.
“It’s a good example of collaboration between a local authority and a cooperative loan fund that ensures that local businesses can access finance to service orders and to grow their businesses when they can’t get it from the banks.”
He said the BCRS had loaned more money to Sandwell than elsewhere in the Black Country and it was now hoping to redress the balance by getting more local authorities involved.
By Duncan Tift – Deputy Editor, The Business Desk, West Midlands