BCRS provides first loan to Stoke-on-Trent business

The recently launched business loan service set up in Stoke-on-Trent has provided its first loan to a business in the city.

The business loan service was set up by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Black Country Reinvestment Society (BCRS) in June with an initial loan fund of £200,000 to provide loans of between £10,000 and £50,000 to Stoke-on-Trent businesses who are having problems getting the funding they need from traditional sources. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent Business Loan Fund launched by BCRS

A loan fund created exclusively to help Stoke-on-Trent businesses unable to obtain finance from banks has been officially launched  by Stoke-on-Trent City Council in conjunction with the Black Country Reinvestment Society (BCRS).

Initially, £200,000 is available for lending to companies who are having problems getting the funding they need from traditional sources.

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Top financiers offer Stoke-on-Trent small businesses advice on accessing funding

A team of top financiers will be visiting Stoke-on-Trent next week giving small businesses advice on how to access essential funding despite the challenging economic times.

The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is running an Open Access to Finance event on February 27. It follows the success of the first such event run by the LEP in January which attracted dozens of local companies.

The Open Access to Finance events are being run in conjunction with the Black Country Reinvestment Society (BCRS), which operates the Staffordshire Business Support Fund in conjunction with Staffordshire County Council.

Experts from commercial banks, small business loan funds, law firms and business schools will be on hand as well as corporate financiers, financial advisors, accountants, angel investors and business advisors.

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Mark Meredith, Cabinet member for Economic Development, said

As part of the Mandate for Change the city council is committed to supporting existing businesses to flourish. The Open Access to Finance workshop is another part of the Make It Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire investment development team’s red carpet approach to investment. The event is helping businesses at every stage with support and guidance to help their companies grow.

LEP chairman Maitland Hyslop said

Some of the organisations at our event provide financial services and can explain the right way to apply for loans. Others will provide expert advice. I hope as many businesses as possible come along to the event – it could really make a difference to securing their futures.

Staffordshire County Councillor Ben Adams, Cabinet member for Economic Growth and Enterprise, said

Staffordshire is full of entrepreneurs and we are bucking the national trend in job creation. However, many small and medium sized businesses are finding it incredibly difficult to secure the finances they desperately need to survive in the current economic climate.

This event aims to change that. It is companies like these that are the lifeblood of the local economy and we want to arm them with the information and advice that they need not only to survive but to thrive. This is an ideal opportunity for business men and women to meet a range of experts who can help them to get to the next level and achieve their aims.

Paul Kalinauckas, Chief Executive of BCRS, said

Our previous Open Access to Finance events which we have held in the Black Country and Staffordshire have received a high level of interest and this highlights that local businesses require more help and information to find out what funding is available. “We are delighted to be hosting this event in Staffordshire to offer businesses direct access to a number of financial organisations which can hopefully offer them support.

The event will take place at the Mitchell Arts Centre, Broad Street, Stoke-on-Trent, from 3pm-6pm.

Attendance to the event is free but people must register in advance at events@bcrs.org.uk.

People can find out more information by contacting 0845 313 8410.

Stoke-On-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council sign to support business growth

Stoke-On-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council have committed to support businesses through the planning process in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire by signing a Planning Charter Mark to commit to support businesses through the planning process.
 
The charter was signed infront of more than 130 business representatives at the New Vic yesterday. The event organised by the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry on behalf of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP was fully booked and saw all local authorities in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire area sign up to the charter.
 
Councillor Mark Meredith, Stoke-On-Trent City Council cabinet member for economic development, said
 
The city council is committed to helping to support existing businesses and encourage new investment in the region. The charter is the council’s pledge to help businesses flourish by providing a red carpet service to guide firms through the process as quickly and effectively as possible.
 

The charter which aims to make development in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire flourish will focus on five main areas

 
  • clarity and consistency
  • effort and focus
  • competence and respect
  • accuracy and fairness
  • dialogue and understanding

to create clear advice for businesses looking to expand or develop.

County Councillor Ben Adams, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Enterprise, said
 
This valuable and unique Planning Charter Mark is part of the red carpet that authorities are rolling out to businesses looking to grow and thrive across Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire. The pledge demonstrates that pace, professionalism and good customer service underpin our planning processes and help us to all play our part in delivering jobs, growth and sustainable developments. This business friendly approach is one of the reasons that big names are investing in the area
 
Stephen Dixon, LEP board member and managing director of Johnson Tiles, was also be joined by fellow board member Sue Prince and founder of Beechenhill Rural Enterprise to talk about the work so far of the LEP and the support the partnership can provide.
 
As part of the commitment all of the councils are signing up to have their planning policies reviewed annually to check whether they fulfil the criteria and can keep the charter mark.
 
Sara Williams, North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the move was welcomed by businesses saying,
 
Businesses will welcome anything that makes the planning process easier and quicker. Enabling business to concentrate on growing and creating jobs, not bureaucracy, is something we all want to see.
 
Maitland Hyslop, chair of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP, said
 
The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP is committed to supporting businesses to grow and welcomes any move which helps to increase investment in the region. The key to this charter is the fact that all of the local authorities have joined together to pledge their commitment making Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire the place to invest.

Business Support Number Goes Live

The single number helpline to give businesses in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire the support and advice they need to develop and prosper has launched today.

The new number 0300 111 8002 which was first announced at the beginning of the year, will act as one point of contact and make it easier for businesses, big or small, to get the advice they need with minimum fuss.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Mohamed Pervez said 

This one point of contact will make it easier for entrepreneurs, big or small, to get the information and advice they need with the minimum of fuss. With the business support line we will have one voice when helping businesses to cut through the bureaucracy and simplify things for them

The number is part of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s drive to lay out the red carpet for business, making it easier for existing and new business to grow in the area. Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Staffordshire County Council and the Chambers of Commerce have all backed the project.

 

LEP Business Development Chairman Stephen Dixon said the partners were working together to put business interests first. 

What business wants is a clear route to information and support. At the moment there are several sources of information and it can be confusing. We are determined to break down barriers to enterprise. The one number will be the single simple gateway to business expertise.

 

 North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Sara Williams said

In a survey conducted by the Chambers of Commerce (on behalf of the LEP), businesses were asked what would be of value to their business. The majority of respondents asked for a single point of contact for business advice.  It is really exciting that the LEP is able to respond so quickly to businesses needs.

Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth and enterprise leader Ben Adams said the business support line would be a building block of the red carpet treatment for business in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. 

Our focus on business, jobs and prosperity is really paying off. Big international names like Jaguar Land Rover, Amazon and Nestle are choosing Staffordshire. We are leading the way nationally for job creation. That’s because the joint team is dedicated to doing everything we can to help businesses thrive – whatever their size

The number which is on a six month trial will operate from 8am – 8pm Monday – Friday and 9am – 6pm on Saturdays.

Stoke-on-Trent Businesses To Get Single Number Advice Line

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire business leaders have signed up to support the development of a single number advice helpline to give businesses the support and advice they need to develop and prosper.

It’s all part of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s drive to lay out the red carpet for business – making it easy for entrepreneurs to invest and grow in the area.
 
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Staffordshire County Council and the Chambers of Commerce have all backed the project, which will kick off a six month trial in February.
 
LEP Business Development Chairman Stephen Dixon said the partners were working together to put business interests first saying,
 
What business wants is a clear route to information and support. At the moment there are several sources of information and it can be confusing. We are determined to break down barriers to enterprise. The one number will be the single simple gateway to business expertise.
 
Ben Adams Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth and enterprise leader said
 
The business support line would be a building block of the red carpet treatment for business in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.
 
Our focus on business, jobs and prosperity is really paying off. Big international names like Jaguar Land Rover, Amazon and Nestle are choosing Staffordshire. We are leading the way nationally for job creation. That’s because the joint team is dedicated to doing everything we can to help businesses thrive – whatever their size.
 
Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Mohammed Pervez said the initiative was about a seemless service for potential investors in our region helping to support the wealth creators saying,
 
This one point of contact will make it easier for entrepreneurs, big or small, to get the information and advice they need with the minimum of fuss. With the business support line we will have one voice when helping businesses to cut through the bureaucracy.
 
North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Sara Williams said
 
The new service was a direct response to what businesses said they wanted.
 
In a survey conducted by the Chambers of Commerce (on behalf of the LEP), businesses were asked what would be of value to their business. The majority of respondents asked for a single point of contact for business advice.  It is really exciting that the LEP is able to respond so quickly to businesses needs.
 
The new single number advice line is due to be launched in February

 

 

Stoke-on-Trent Businesses Sign Up To Climate of Change

Over 200 businesses and stakeholders met at the Kings Hall in Stoke this morning [Wednesday] to help shape the future vision for the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

The Mandate for Change vision is based on four strategic aims that go wider than the city council and its services.

These are:

1) Make Stoke-on-Trent the place to bring business
2) Support and develop existing business
3) Work with people to promote independence and healthy lives
4) Make Stoke-on-Trent a great city to live in.

The meeting was positive and all those present were enthusiastic to play a part in the development of the city’s future and to help eradicate worklessness.

”I was delighted to get the opportunity to attend the meeting this morning.

“The people on our table were really positive about the project and it was very interesting to hear a diverse range of ideas.

“I thought the City Council CEO John van de Laarschot spoke well and I was impressed at how the event was managed.

“The councillor on our table was Peter Hayward and he really impressed me with his approach to the whole issue.

“It was also great to hear the vision and ideas of former Elected Mayor Mike Wolfe who clearly still has a lot to offer the City and always seems to shine at these kinds of events.

“Al in all, I thought the event was a success and to me, the proof of how serious the council are about the future of the city will be if they hold another of these meetings in the near future”.

The event was attended by many of the elected councillors and officers.

The clear message was to make Stoke-on-Trent a great working city and a great place to live.

Politicians and council officers have prioritised job and wealth creation to increase prosperity in the belief that they will have a positive effect on the reduction of the reliance on benefits. It is believed that in turn there will be a reduction on anti-social issues which will help the health and police services.

City Council CEO told the meeting that the future was in the hands of the private sector in light of recent cuts in local government.

“Of course we need to change how the council delivers it services, and we are in the middle of that process by introducing new ways of working, but this is much, much bigger than the council. This is about a one city approach. It is about the council becoming an enabler not a barrier. We want to show people that Stoke-on-Trent is a great place to come and bring businesses and that rewards can be reaped from being part of the city.

“Everything else will come in time if we sort the problem of the severe lack of jobs in the city. By being financially independent people will lead healthier and more independent lives and that in turn will generate a great city to live in.”

The Leader of the City Council Mohammed Pervez was absent from the meeting due to a recent family bereavement.

” “The Mandate for Change is not just about the city council it is about the future success of our city.

“We know the council cannot make Stoke-on-Trent a “Ëœgreat working city’ on its own. We need the support and help from businesses, partners and residents to make Stoke-on-Trent the place to bring business. We need to promote and market the city to say on the national and international stage that Stoke-on-Trent is open for business!

“I strongly believe the best way to significantly improve the lives of our residents is to create jobs – it really is that simple. That is why we have invited businesses, third sector representatives and partners to join us on Wednesday and give us their feedback on our strategic aims. This is the beginning of a very exciting journey for the city. One I hope everyone will get involved in.”

There was an invited to all attendees to keep coming up with ideas of how to help the city attract inward investment and to encourage and support start up businesses and entrepreneurship.

The City Council also launched a video of iconic images from around the City to support the mandate.

Youngsters impress Local Entrepreneurs in Apprentice Challenge

Today Youngsters from across the City came to Longton High City Learning Centre to pitch their ideas to Local Entrepreneurs in the hope of securing funding to take their ideas further.

The Students who attend a range of high schools from all over Stoke-on-Trent have all been attending workshops run by the Altogether Company.

Pitsnpots ran a story on The Altogether Company Last week and today saw the youngsters reach an important milestone in their project to develop their own small business.

Director of the Altogether Company Ben Dyer took some time to recap with us about who the Company are and what they are trying to achieve with their “Apprentice Challenge”.

I spoke with two of the students who were due to put their pitch to the local entrepreneurs to raise money for their greeting card business.

Take a look at the Short video to see how the event went for the girls and to see what they think about participating in Apprentice Challenge.

Should the unemployed learn Mandarin Chinese?

There was an item on Newsnight last night spelling out in bald terms how the Western Economies are increasingly reliant on China to pull it out of the economic mire. Setting aside the irony that capitalist economies require a Communist state to save them, the documentary rather pointed to the growth of the state led enterprise and at the same time the eclipse of the Anglo-American free market model.

The figures for growth are the most startling with China racking up 10% growth rates compared with the minuscule rates experienced in the UK. In fact the People’s Republic that was responsible for over half the global growth rate last year.

China, helped by a huge fiscal stimulus from Beijing last year, is roaring ahead and helping to drag the rest of Asia and countries such as Germany, which exports a lot of machine tools to China, out of recession too. China is one of the key reasons the world did not experience an even worse 2009 than it actually did.

China is not alone; other Asian countries that are booming include Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan. But in terms of sheer size and importance, key emerging economies now include Brazil, India and Russia with China; these are known as the Brics to denote their growing economic importance.

The Newsnight item also reported on impressive growth rates for India at 8% also noting the strong relationships historical and cultural with the UK.

Their rising power stands in sharp contrast to struggling European economies such as Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, known collectively, if unkindly, as the Pigs.

The Brics now account for 15% of the global economy, more than half of the size of the US. As Newsnight pointed out, China has overtaken Germany to become the world’s third-largest economy and is likely to move into second place, ahead of Japan, over the next year or so.

By 2030 it is likely to have eclipsed the US as the world’s top economy. Brazil will overtake France and Britain to become the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2025 at the latest. Along with India and Russia, it has overtaken or is about to overtake Canada, a member of the G7 leading economies. No wonder the G20, which includes the Brics, has been recognised as the primary forum for global economic discussions.

All the Brics are set to grow lays to rest the myth that Americans are the world’s “consumers of last resort”, forecasting that the Brics, rather than simply being huge exporters, are likely to account for almost half of global consumption growth in 2010 and beyond.

One aspect of the increased desire for consumption and increased leisure time is the increase in strikes and industrial disputes in China where workers have learned the value of collectivist action. They are looking to raise living standards in a time of boom increasing union activity is a manifestation of that.

Where does this leave Stoke well the programme said that China was looking for investment opportunities in the west. Perhaps we should look at where local manufacture especially in niche and specialised areas could meet the increasing consumer demand?

Coals to Newcastle, Pots to China?

Why is illiteracy such a problem locally?

I have just seen a report from the Sheffield on the success of the Governments strategy on literacy

The latest evidence on reading shows 17 per cent of 16- to 19-year-olds are functionally illiterate and Professor Brooks of Sheffield University said this had also been the case for at least two decades

.
“People at this level can handle only simple tests and straightforward questions on them where no distracting information is adjacent or nearby,” his report says.

“Making inferences and understanding forms of indirect meaning, e.g. allusion and irony, are likely to be difficult or impossible. This is less than the functional literacy needed to partake fully in employment, family life and citizenship and to enjoy reading for its own sake.

This seems to bear out a frequent complaint from employers that so many young workers lack basic communication skills such as an ability to read.

How can we have arrived at a situation after 13 years of New Labour and the refrain of education, education, education that we have such a large proportion of the nation’s youth can lack basic skills following such a massive investment?.

This is a problem that has a direct bearing on our local scene. I recall a major article in the Sentinel last October where the blame for the very low literacy is fixed firmly on parents. An investigation carried out into why there is such a failing in achievement levels in Key Stage 1 concluded that the lack of assistance by parents in getting their children to read, write and add up. One Councillor accused Stoke parents of refusing to engage with the “system”. It is true that the City scores very badly against bench marked similar Councils.

I do some voluntary reading at a school in leek and the range of reading skills especially for boys is extremely marked.

The latest assessments of seven-year-olds show two per cent more Stoke children are reaching at least level two in reading and maths, and one per cent more are reaching this level in writing.

It means out of 2,515 pupils, 1,936 achieved the standard expected for their age in reading 1,810 achieved it in writing and 2,087 in maths.