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Business support scheme set to return

By Margaret Canning

Published 18/09/2012

Welcome back: Arlene Foster said the return of the support service was 'positive news'
Welcome back: Arlene Foster said the return of the support service was 'positive news'

A support service for budding entrepreneurs is set to return after a year's wrangling over a tendering process.

The former Go For It programme has been renamed the Regional Start Initiative and will be run by Enterprise Northern Ireland (ENI).

ENI ran Go For It for around two decades but lost out last year when the tender for the programme was instead awarded to a consortium of Scottish company GO Group and the Northern Ireland offices of KPMG.

The snubbed organisation started a legal challenge which was suspended earlier this year after Invest NI said it would start a fresh tendering process.

Speaking in the Assembly yesterday, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the return of the programme was "a very positive and welcome development".

"Members will be aware, for over a year, Invest NI has not been in a position to deliver a full business support programme to those individuals interested in starting their own business, due to a legal challenge launched following the original procurement exercise.

"As a consequence, a further tender competition was held and the outcome of this is being advised to the tenderers today."

She added: "As with all such procurement exercises, there will now follow a 10-day period before the contract becomes operational and the successful tenderer can begin to deliver the contract.

"This means that, after a period of over a year of being unable to provide a full support service to individuals who are interested in starting their own business, Invest NI will shortly be in a position to reintroduce a new business start programme."

Invest NI later announced that the contract had been awarded to ENI, which was not available for comment.

The Northern Ireland body, which runs Northern Ireland's local enterprise agencies, had helped run Invest NI's programme for around 20 years.

Around 10 people are employed at Enterprise NI's Limavady headquarters but over 200 people work in member groups.

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