Business Gateway a boost for region

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The possibility of the UK leaving the EU was flagged up this week as a threat to future funding of the business advisory service run by Scottish Borders Council.

SBC’s executive heard uncertainty over continued UK membership was considered a risk to the Business Gateway which, in 2014/15, assisted 225 new start-ups.

“If we do not secure European funding we may not have the resources to continue to deliver all aspects of the service to the same high standards,” reported Jim Johnstone, SBC’s business officer.

In his 2015/16 business plan, Business Gateway manager Phil McCreadie said: “Business start-up numbers are greater than expected and this reflects demand and the use of EU funding to extend our activities.”

That is a reference to the core funding - £331,000 this financial year - which Business Gateway receives from the Scottish Government, via SBC.

But uncertainty over additional funding failed to cloud an upbeat assessment of the service’s performance following implementation of an improvement plan a year ago and the appointment of Mr McCreadie in October.

SBC’s executive heard that 27 of the 225 start-ups had the potential for high growth and the service had delivered 84 start-up workshops and 76 local workshops attended by exactly 1,000 people.

More of the same is planned in the coming year with outreach advisory sessions planned for SBC contact centres and community centres.

In his annual review, Bryan McGrath, SBC’s chief economic development officer, reported the Scottish Borders Business Fund had received 64 applications and approved 51 grants worth £132,200 in 2014/15, creating 98 jobs and safeguarding another 167.

Six applications to the Scottish Borders Business Loan Fund had been approved. These were projected to create 32 new jobs.