Belfast Telegraph

Specialist loan fund enjoys sustained success with SMEs

By Emma Deighan

More than £6m has been distributed by a specialist loan fund which was created to support small businesses here four years ago.

The Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund has also helped create over 150 jobs since its inception.

It is managed by Ulster Community Finance (UCF), a subsidiary of Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland and provides loans of £50,000 to start-ups, micro enterprises and small businesses.

Brocagh Precision Engineering Ltd (BPE), located near Coalisland, was one of the fund's first beneficiaries. It has developed new products for the construction and demolition sector as a result of receiving the loan.

BPE director Paul Donnelly said: "Following the completion of two recent projects we have secured a number of export orders for our new product range and have seen our sales grow by 20%. As these new orders go into production we have plans in place to increase our staff to meet demand and to grow the business."

Harry McDaid, UCIT's chief executive, said: "Northern Ireland has the highest concentration of SMEs in the UK and accounts for 99% of our private sector. Ensuring these firms have adequate access to funding is, therefore, essential for the well-being of the economy."

The fund has supported a range of sectors here including hospitality, IT, manufacturing, tourism and retail.

Donal Leahy, senior lending executive of Enterprise NI, explained the fund covers a gap in the market for SMEs.

"This fund was a new and unique offering in the marketplace and has been a huge success to date," he said.

"And as we are now in the fifth year of the fund we have the advantage of being able to look back at many of the projects that clients pursued which generated tangible benefits for their businesses.

"A funding gap in the market for SMEs is now being covered and we aim to sustain and exceed this provision over the coming years."

William McCulla, Invest NI's director of corporate finance, said: "The Small Business Loan Fund is continuing to make a significant difference to the business community in Northern Ireland by boosting business confidence and ensuring SMEs have access to the type of finance needed to support their growth and development."

The fund provides loans of up to £50,000 to start-ups, micro enterprises and small businesses. As a revolving fund it's expected that a figure in excess of £7m will be made available.

Belfast Telegraph

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