Interest-free loans to create thousands of jobs
Interest-free loans aimed at helping create 5,000 jobs
across four East Kent districts are now on offer.
The Expansion East Kent (ExEK) scheme is being targeted at
firms and enterprises with potential for growth.
Bids for slices of the £35m Regional Growth Fund (a
further £5m has already been pledged to a high-speed track upgrade
from Ashford to Thanet) are now being accepted.
It follows the government's decision to designate part of
the area an enterprise zone in the wake of the substantial
withdrawal of Pfizer from Sandwich and re-branding the site
Interest-free loans of up to £2.5m are available to
eligible businesses in the local authority districts of Canterbury,
Thanet, Shepway and Dover.
Firms from outside the area with a major presence in the
districts, and those moving into the area for the first time, will
also be considered.
A panel of experts, including accountants from
PricewaterhouseCoopers and KCC leader Paul Carter, will judge each
application. The money will be released in three tranches for
various projects ranging from new buildings, land purchase,
professional fees, fixtures and fittings, equipment and machinery,
technology transfer and R&D.
Specific sectors are being encouraged, including
scientific research and development, manufacturing, tourism and
heritage and culture.
Cllr Carter pledged that decisions would be made quickly.
Loans are to be repayable over specific periods to replenish the
He expects some write-offs but hopes a rigorous filtering
process will back the right opportunities and keep defaults
"We will look at each application on its own merits," he
Bids are also welcome from start-ups with good growth
prospects. Cllr Carter insisted the panel would not be afraid to
take "intelligent" risks and he hopes some loans will lever in
further finance from banks.
But not all sectors are eligible. Farming and
horticulture, for instance, which already receives state aid, will
"This is a massively exciting opportunity," said Cllr
Carter. "The money is here to help new businesses to start,
existing businesses to grow and new businesses to come and grow in
n Details at www.kent.gov.uk/expansion