Amid the gloom, some cheerful news: the maximum amount of funding available to local businesses from the Local Investment Fund (LIF) Cymru has been increased from £5000 to £10,000.
This cash – the minimum grant is £1000 – is available to businesses to meet up to 40 per cent of the cost of capital investments such as buying new equipment or extending business premises. LIF South West Wales is a local authority-led and managed project, incorporating Carmarthenshire (the lead local authority), Ceredigion, City and County of Swansea, Pembrokeshire and Neath Port Talbot in partnership with the South Wales Chamber of Commerce.
The LIF started operations in February 2009 with a pot of around £19m and is scheduled to be completed in 2014. It’s not a WAG initiative: it receives Convergence support from the European Regional Development Fund.
SMEs are eligible for financial support provided they can meet certain criteria, some of which are guidelines laid down by the EU regulations. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis but, according to the LIF, funding mainly goes to those in, or servicing, the manufacturing sector, tourism and B2Bs.
To get a grant, you need to be an SME based in the five counties, with fewer than 250 staff and with either a turnover not exceeding €50 million, or a balance sheet not exceeding €43 million.
Examples of suitable areas of business are marine, energy, engineering, manufacturing, innovation, tourism and leisure, knowledge economy, creative and media services, auto components, construction, transport, finance, community and social enterprise, food and other general business services.
However, agriculture, forestry, fishing, health services, local social welfare services and training activities are among the sectors not eligible for LIF money.
The grants are awarded to assist capital expenditure, such as buying new or secondhand machinery or other equipment, buying or upgrading IT and Telecom hardware, and modifying and improving premises to make room for increased capacity and efficiency or to incorporate new processes. One-off marketing costs such as display and promotional material, and website development together with the purchase of necessary software are also eligible.
Maintenance of plant and property and the purchase of general office furniture and sundries would not qualify for the cash, and work already in progress is also ineligible for funding, an important point to bear in mind.
“The LIF is all about helping local businesses, and thereby promoting local jobs,” says LIF business development manager John Davies.
“Manufacturing and construction are key employers in this area, and we want to encourage local companies as much as possible, including start-ups.
“We are aiming to cover as many sectors as we can, so we are granting funds across the board – tourism and B2B enterprises are good candidates for the LIF and as long as they qualify under the guidelines, the money is there.”
If the business can show positive environmental improvements, job creation or higher turnover as a result of getting a grant, so much the better.
A recipient of LIF Cymru funding is Swansea-based Sue Powell-Reed. Formerly an ITV Wales presenter, Sue runs VibeTV, a production company that offers services such as promotional videos, recording of conferences, advertising, branding, 3D animation and voiceovers for businesses.
“The LIF grant was easy to apply for and the money was available quickly. We invested in upgrading our broadcasting equipment and therefore we could bid for and get bigger and better clients and contracts,” she says.
For more information contact the LIF Central Project Team on (01267) 242 390 or email email@example.com
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