Business Durham support boosts firms in post-COVID era

2022 was a year of change, as businesses transitioned to a new normal after two years of disruption caused by the pandemic.

Business Durham, the business support service of Durham County Council, has supported dozens of businesses through this challenging time, which has been defined by political turmoil at home and abroad, and a cost-of-living crisis that has sent energy bills and raw material costs soaring.

The support has been wide-ranging, including networking opportunities, providing grant funding, and practical advice on all aspects of growing a business.

Business Durham created numerous networking opportunities for businesses, conferences and the support team got out and about again, visiting local offices and factories to discover the challenges companies have been facing, and help with connections to support they need to overcome them.

To achieve their growth goals, businesses need access to appropriate finance to invest and develop. Business Durham-managed funding programmes have benefited dozens of companies this year.

They include the County Durham Growth Fund, a £8.9m capital grant scheme designed to accelerate the expansion of SMEs, which has awarded £1.2 million to 11 companies over the year and the Finance Durham Fund, which has invested more than £10m in 21 companies since it was launched in 2017.

Business Durham offers ongoing support that takes many forms. For example, The DABS programme has continued to provide fledgling companies with the chance to grow their venture through expert-led workshops, group sessions, monthly networking events, one-to-one support, and mentoring.

Other companies have taken advantage of the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP) which, since its launch in 2020, has helped hundreds of businesses by identifying and helping them to access potential market opportunities, connecting them to business support initiatives, and by meeting gaps in the business support offer.

The DBOP Routes to Contract Success programme built on the original programme’s success and provided support to over 70 companies through face-to-face workshops, meet the buyer and other supplier engagement events, hands-on one-to-one advice, help and practical consultancy in the form of complete bid writing services.

The uncertainty of the pandemic heaped more pressure on business owners and entrepreneurs, many of whom benefited from a Durham Business Recovery Grant to adapt their business model, launch a new revenue stream, tackle unforeseen challenges, and develop new ways of working.

Overseen by Business Durham, the £6 million grant scheme provided financial assistance for the implementation of business recovery plans, helping firms that had a credible plan to adapt and recover but didn’t have the necessary financial clout to be able to implement it.

The scheme provided grants from £1,000 up to a maximum of £40,000 and contributed 75% towards eligible recovery plan costs, with the business expected to meet a quarter of the project cost.

As we enter 2023, there is renewed optimism among the business community, despite the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.
Sarah Slaven, Managing Director of Business Durham, said: “Last year businesses saw a return to a new normal as concerns surrounding COVID-19 gradually subsided. There was good engagement within the business community as companies met up again to network and share ideas.

“Economic conditions are still challenging; global supply chain issues and the cost-of-living crisis show no sign of abating in the short term. But, despite this, businesses are grasping opportunities with a positive, can-do attitude.

“This year there is likely to be much more focus on the issue of sustainability. This is partly because businesses are looking to reduce their energy bills, but also because they want to create a greener economy and play their part in helping to tackle the climate crisis.”

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Business Durham support boosts firms in post-COVID era

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