Published: August 25, 2020 | Updated: August 25, 2020

Dorset Growth Hub to distribute more than £500,000 of new government funding to SMEs

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Dorset are set to benefit from more than half a million pounds of new government funding to help them recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the government announced that a share of £30m would be distributed to each Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

It included a £10m Kick-starting Tourism Package for small businesses in the tourism sector and a further £20m of funding to help smaller businesses recover from the effects of Covid-19.

As a result, a total of just under £550,000 of grant funding has been awarded to Dorset.

The funding will be available to SME businesses in the form of grants, between £1,000 and £5,000.

The support will be fully funded by the government from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and distributed through Dorset Growth Hub (DGH).

The grants will allow eligible businesses to access specialist professional advice such as human resources, accountants, legal, financial and IT/digital.

It can also be used to buy minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue or diversify their business activity.

Nick Gregory, Operations Director, Dorset Growth Hub, said: “It is our intention to be able to start administering grants as soon as possible and we expect this to be in September.

“We have had over 600 businesses register their details already, so there is a definite need for further financial support to businesses.

“We are eager to help as many businesses as we can, so please register your details and we will be in touch once we have all the information.”

DGH already delivers an £18.4m business support programme across the county.

Since March 20, DGH has held more than 50 online events with over 2,700 attendees, providing local businesses with support and guidance to help them through the lockdown period in addition to free 1-2-1 support.

Tourism contributes around £1bn per year to Dorset’s economy and supports almost 40,000 jobs.

However, tourism has been one of the sectors that has been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic with many businesses in the sector simply not able to operate during lockdown.

Visit Dorset published the outcomes of an initial survey it conducted back in April to assess the impact that Covid-19 was having on local businesses in the sector.

Of the 1,044 respondents to the survey, the majority were sole traders or small to medium sized businesses, of which 80 per cent said they had temporarily closed as a result of Covid-19.

Welcoming the news of the funding, Richard Smith, Dorset LEP Board Member, Dorset Tourism Association Chair and Director of The Tank Museum, pictured left, said: “This allocation to Dorset is great news for local SMEs who continue to re-open post lockdown.

“Businesses now want a ‘business as usual’ approach, which keeps people Covid-19 safe.

“The Kickstarting Tourism package is the next step in Dorset’s re-opening of its tourism sector.

“The county has proved that its tourism and hospitality sectors can open safely but this fund will now help those businesses adapt to a new tourism sector which puts visitor safety and peace of mind at its heart.”

Of the £550,000 allocated by the government, a proportion has been specifically set aside for those SMEs working in, or supporting, the tourism sector.

The remaining funds are to help the wider SME community that have been negatively impacted by Covid-19.

While funding can be used for adaptations and new technology such as digital signage, it cannot be used to pay for things like Perspex screens or other personal protective equipment (PPE).

If you are a Dorset-based SME and want to be informed when the applications open and receive guidelines, please click here.

Dorset Growth Hub expect this to be in the next few weeks.