A government minister has praised the Business Enterprise Fund (BEF) after it secured £15m of funds to support businesses in the post-industrial areas of the north of England; the first of several planned funds.
BEF has received an initial £7.5m cash boost from Big Society Capital, a major social impact investor which works with Social Investment Scotland to connect investment with SMEs and social enterprises throughout areas that need it most.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy, said: "It’s important for our economic growth to support local organisations who are working to improve their communities."
"The £15m fund established by the Business Enterprise Fund will go towards helping small businesses and charities who are making significant contributions to supporting sustainable growth across the country."
"The Conservative Government through our modern Industrial Strategy is working to build a stronger, fairer economy that works for everyone and BEF’s positive, social impacts are providing valuable support."
Chief executive of BEF, Steve Waud, said the organisation wants to increase its funding support in these post-industrial areas which it works. He added: "It has taken a long time to secure this social impact funding and our ‘fund for the North’ is the first of its kind."
"We are currently developing additional social impact funds and hope to announce a further £15m early next year – this is all part of our continuing growth plans to help the North’s economy through supporting SMEs, where for every £1 we lend, over £4 is added to the local economy. In the next couple of years, our impact is set to equate to nearly £0.25bn."
In its 2018 social impact report, BEF outlined plans to weave into the fabric of its operations, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on reducing inequalities and making these post-industrial areas more resilient and sustainable.
"By 2022 we want to have a 5% year-on-year increase on lending in the north of England – which is especially necessary in the current volatile economic environment - with this additional £15m funding we’re on track to do just that," said Steve, who has headed BEF since it was established in 2004.
Alastair Davis, chief executive of Social Investment Scotland, said: "The impact BEF is making on its communities via the businesses it’s helping is very exciting to us; we’re looking forward to working with them in the future and seeing how the £15m is distributed to organisations supporting disadvantaged areas."
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