Page last updated at 06:53 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

25m boost for small businesses

warehouse scene
Small firms could work together to capture larger projects

A 25m scheme to help small and medium businesses work in clusters to bid for public sector projects is being announced by the deputy first minister.

The money is designed to assist 4,200 businesses and 155 social enterprises over the next seven years, and could lead to the creation of 1,200 jobs.

The project, Enterprise Networks, will focus on creating and supporting supply chains in key sectors of industry.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the initiative.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, who is also minister for the economy, will unveil the scheme in Llandudno Junction, north Wales later.

Enterprise Networks has received 12m funding from the Convergence European Regional Development Fund toward its costs.

Anything they put in place to help small businesses to gain access to larger contracts we would welcome
Micheal Learmond, FSB

Mr Jones will tell delegates at the meet-a-buyer event at the Welsh Assembly Government offices in Llandudno Junction about the extra support available.

He said ahead of the launch: "Welsh businesses need to be able to compete on a global stage - we have many extremely successful and innovative Welsh companies that are doing extremely well, despite the economic climate.

"We need more business to follow in their footsteps and we want to encourage new start-ups and help entrepreneurs to turn their good ideas into commercial reality.

"Innovation is vital for success and Enterprise Networks is geared to support existing companies and help get new businesses off the ground.

"An obvious existing opportunity is enabling our SMEs to bid for public sector tenders - each year, public sector bodies in Wales spend more than 4.5bn on the procurement of goods, services and capital projects."

He said this figure was not affected by the current "challenging" economic climate and would offer a "pipeline of opportunity".

"By working together small and medium-sized companies can form clusters to increase their capacity and collectively bid for contracts," he added.

Michael Learmond, north Wales regional organiser for the FSB, said: "Anything they put in place to help small businesses to gain access to larger contracts we would welcome.

"As long as the money is targeted correctly, I think any money for smaller businesses is helpful.

"The issue for us is access to private sector funding. Lending is still a major issue."

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