Belfast Telegraph

Fund marks £40m in loans to firms from skin clinics to chill specialist

By Staff Reporter

A fund set up to support the growth of SMEs announced today that it has lent more than £40m to businesses in Northern Ireland.

Firms from a refrigeration company in Co Tyrone to a skin clinic in Belfast have benefited from the support of the Growth Loan Fund.

The lender was set up to help firm in a period when banks' lending policies were restrictive following the economic crash.

It made its first investment in September 2012 and has since supported 120 businesses with loans from £100,000 up to £1.25m.

Finance for the £50m fund, which provides loans to established Northern Ireland SMEs, is provided by Invest NI and Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).

Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI, said: "The Growth Loan Fund is a key component of Invest NI's Access to Finance initiative that seeks to ensure that companies with high growth potential are not held back because they cannot access finance.

"I am delighted that the fund has distributed more than £40m to 120 businesses in the past five years. This demonstrates that there is a real need for this fund with companies such as Ardboe Coldstore, ConveyorTek and more recently Newry-based Healthy Buildings using the support to grow their businesses and employ more people.

"The fund is also making a substantial difference here by boosting business confidence and helping Northern Ireland businesses to go from strength to strength."

Ardboe Coldstore is a freezing and chilling specialist for food sector, while ConveyorTek in Lisburn makes conveyor belts for industry.

Environmental consultancy Healthy Buildings used £500,000 from the fund to support its BlueZone Technologies business in its software development.

Earlier this year, Belfast Skin Clinic opened its doors after receiving funding from the lender.

Paul Millar, chief executive of WhiteRock Capital Partners, which manages the fund, said: "Access to finance has long been a big issue for SMEs and so there has been a healthy appetite for the finance provided by the fund since it launched.

"The Growth Loan Fund was set up to fill a gap in the market, but as the economy has changed we are now regularly finding ourselves providing finance alongside local banks as we seek to help ambitious companies to grow."

Belfast Telegraph