Support to fuel business growth within Milton Keynes

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Businesses across Milton Keynes have a legion of support measures available to them as they hit the reset and recovery button.

At the last Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership (MKBLP) event, members were joined by a trio of experts who shared the vast array of support available to them, and the wider business community.

Regardless of shape, size or sector, the support is accessible to all in a bid to drive longer-term resilience, growth and prosperity.

Representatives from across a range of businesses, who are members of MKBLP, heard from Sophie Lloyd, Strategic Lead: Economy and Policy at MK Council, SEMLEP’s private sector board director, Yvette Lamidey, and NatWest’s Local Enterprise Manager, Debbie Lewis.

Over the course of the pandemic, Milton Keynes Council has paid out 13,000 grants to local businesses and Sophie highlighted the Invest MK provision, which is in place to support the growth of businesses: “It is also open to businesses looking to relocate within the local authority boundary, we are able to help and support organisations to ensure they take full advantage of Milton Keynes' phenomenal growth.”

With a vast amount of experience in providing support to businesses within her Natwest capacity, Debbie highlighted the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) launched last month to provide financial aid for businesses as they recover and grow: “Away from the traditional banking and borrowing, this is a new round of lending. Businesses who have taken out a CBILS, CLBILS or BBLS facility are able to access the new scheme.”

And it isn’t just financial support. Following the publication of its Springboard to Recovery report, NatWest has relaunched its Enterprise programme to boost provisions for scale-up businesses, a free programme which is open to all UK SME’s: “We are seeing far fewer scale-ups than in normal times,” Debbie explained. “But this sector is crucial to the UK’s economic recovery post Covid-19. We have introduced new layers of support, from 24/7 toolkits, and a community of 4,000 entrepreneurs across the UK to share ideas and processes.”

On the back of the Natwest Rose Review report, there is a huge drive to encourage female founders through the ‘Back Her Business’ scheme where female entrepreneurs raise money through crowdfunding, which is then matched by Natwest: “We have just been informed of a £60,000 grant which can be given to communities who are helping women get started.”

“There are so many initiatives afoot which are not widely advertised, so it’s important to network with other businesses to share these golden nuggets of extra information.”

Uncovering pots of available funds and providing signposting for businesses was a common thread. With banks and local authorities mindful of the state of many businesses, support is switching from survival mode to spearheading growth.

“Through every economic downturn in history we see a surge in entrepreneurship and 85,000 more new businesses registered last year compared to the year before – we know start-ups are flourishing, we just need to support them with correct signposting.”

SEMLEP’s Yvette Lamidey, who is also Chair of the Growth Hub board, and Small Business Champion, discussed the Growth Curve support for high growth businesses through masterclasses and peer networking, “there is support and mentoring out there for everyone.”

“We are doing the hard work to make it easier for people. The Governance is from the Government, it’s not always user friendly but we help people break through the process.”

As the situation has begun to stabilise, SEMLEP’s support has shifted to enabling businesses to adapt and diversify within the new conditions. Webinars on adapting to the new trade deals, new peer-to-peer support groups, masterclasses, run in collaboration with local universities, and the Growth Curve project, which supports scale-up and pre-scale-up businesses.

SEMLEP has also been busy gathering evidence of the pandemic’s impact on businesses, to inform new government schemes and local policy. “Businesses have faced a double whammy with Brexit and Covid, so we are running targeted events, in conjunction with other growth hubs across the Arc, to provide lot of support."

While emphasising the support for businesses, Sophie was keen to point out the help young people are set to receive through the Kickstart Scheme. The Government launched £2 million scheme is designed to create hundreds of thousands of high-quality six-month work placements for 16- to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.

“We have a duty to every single business and resident within Milton Keynes and this is why the council are investing in a £2.25 million Economic Recovery Plan.”

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