As part of Business Durham’s Spotlight On Finance, MD Simon Goon blogs: How do we help our businesses grow to become PLCs and deliver the real game-changing wealth generation our economy needs?

It’s a question the North East has long wrestled with.

Our region has fewer businesses per head of the population than any other region in the UK.

We also have fewer PLCs than the rest of the UK.  Yet in certain sectors we have more start-ups than anywhere else other than London and the south east.

I’ve previously talked about some of the great businesses in Durham and there are many more which have great growth potential.

There are a range of factors that influence business growth; access to markets, talents and finance.

Having access to the finance needed to back bold plans is crucial.

The North East has an impressive suite of funds in place – an eco-system – backed by public and private finance to nurture new business growth.

For instance, the spectacular success of the Finance for Business North East Fund – the original JEREMIE fund – has invested £140m in equity and loans over the last five years into more than 900 small and medium-sized firms.

It’s successor the £120m JEREMIE2 will pick up where it leaves off and invest heavily in the future of even more North East businesses.

It’s into this environment that Finance Durham enters to play its part in supporting local entrepreneurs and ambitious firms to go for more growth and generate more wealth.

Durham County Council has taken a bold, far-sighted approach to supporting new business growth by creating a venture capital loan fund unique in our region and virtually unheard of at this sub-regional level elsewhere in the country.

The £20m Finance Durham will invest between £200,000 and £2m into County Durham companies – ten per cent of the fund will be set aside for business start-ups and incubation.

The rest will go towards stimulating businesses with high growth potential.

Any returns made from Finance Durham’s investments will be pumped back into the funding pot, creating an evergreen fund with a shelf life well beyond its initial ten-year investment model.

Our ultimate aim is that Finance Durham – complementing the support of other VC funds such as  JEREMIE2 – will help to create more PLCs.

Sage PLC is the obvious homegrown case in point.

From humble university spin-out beginnings, it has become a global software powerhouse.

We need more of this transformative business growth in our economy.

The stand-alone investment fund appointed a manager, Maven Capital Partners earlier this year in March, and will be open for business from May

A key part of their job will involve working with County Durham businesses to raise financial awareness, financial readiness, improve governance and training.

It’s vital that recipients are given every support we can offer them so that they are aware of and can make maximum the use of the money invested in them.

Success breeds success and having local exemplars access Finance Durham venture capital and use it to great effect, will encourage other businesses to follow suit.

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