The chief executive of banking giant Barclays has praised the quality of Yorkshire’s workers and universities as he launched a £500m fund to boost economic growth across the North of England.
The new fund is available from today to provide investment into businesses across the region with favourable terms for manufacturing, transport and logistics companies, to help them grow and create jobs.
Launching the fund, Jes Staley, Barclays group CEO, said: “Barclays has been helping businesses across the North to succeed since the dawn of the industrial revolution, when we financed the world’s first steam locomotive passenger railway between Stockton and Darlington.
“Today, we face new economic challenges and opportunities posed by the digital revolution, the growth in competition from emerging markets, and of course, Brexit.
“The Northern Powerhouse is an initiative which, if delivered, would help the whole country to meet that challenge and take those economic opportunities.
“That is why I’m delighted to announce our £500 million Northern Powerhouse Growth Fund, enabling businesses across the North to invest in jobs and growth.
“As the UK prepares for Brexit, it’s vitally important that businesses, civic leaders and Government work together to make the Northern Powerhouse a reality. That means supporting entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed, but it also means providing more ways into high quality work.”
Mr Staley told The Yorkshire Post that SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are critical for employment and are the real engines of the UK economy.
He said he was always impressed by the enthusiasm and dogged belief displayed by the founders of small businesses.
He added: “This is such a great place for us to employ talent. You have got great universities across the North of England. Employees are very loyal in this part of the country.”
The new fund was announced by Mr Staley as he visited Thornton Brothers Limited, in Ashington, Northumberland. Later, Mr Staley also met Barclays apprentices at one of the bank’s major contact centres in Doxford International Business Park, near Sunderland.
Small Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said: “This Government is fully behind the entrepreneurs delivering jobs, growth and greater choice for consumers so it’s great to see businesses like Barclays providing further investment to help Northern SMEs start-up and grow.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, with over 1,000 being created every day across the country supporting nearly three million jobs and generating revenues of more than £200 billion in the North of England alone. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are building a Britain in which they will continue to thrive.”
Northern Powerhouse Partnership Vice-Chair Lord Jim O’Neill said: “I have consistently said that for the Northern Powerhouse to be a success and deliver a more balanced economy for the whole of the UK requires the support and vision of the North’s leading businesses.
“This major fund from Barclays will significantly increase the potential of our SMEs across the Northern Powerhouse to embrace the next industrial revolution, incorporating innovation such as robotics and AI into everything they do.
“There is real momentum growing in the Northern Powerhouse, and I hope the commitment Barclays and their CEO Jes Staley have demonstrated today will be matched by our political leaders in Whitehall so the Northern Powerhouse can truly fulfil its potential.”
The bank will also shortly open new Eagle Labs - dedicated co-working spaces for promising start-ups to grow and collaborate - in Newcastle and Sheffield, adding to its existing Labs in Salford and Liverpool.
Under the £500m Northern Powerhouse Growth Fund, Barclays will also be able to offer a range of business lending services to support day-to-day cash flow, expansion and investment for growth, John Worrall, managing director of Proper Pasty, which is based in Sheffield, said: “A Northern Powerhouse fund from Barclays would be excellent and provide access to finance in a new and different way. It would enable us to maximise the capacity within our existing factory and allow us to grow our business faster through an additional depot and increased fleet which would open us up to new markets.”
Marcus Doyle, the co-founder of the Yorkshire Soap Company, based in Leeds, said: “This fund will potentially help us massively as we will be able to invest in new machinery such as labelling and filling machines which cost thousands of pounds. With extra investment, we could also employ more people and additional stores could be opened.”