“SMEs are crucial to the health of both the nation and the North East, and can become the real driving force behind future economic growth here despite Brexit uncertainty.”

That’s the message from Andrew Mitchell, CEO of The North East Fund Limited as businesses await this year’s Autumn budget announcement (29 October 2018) as well as the outcome of ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Andrew is encouraging the region’s SMEs to remain confident, embrace new opportunities for growth and not to be deterred by a lack of progress with negotiations on a national level.

His comments come as statistics released by the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demonstrated just how crucial SMEs are to the UK’s economy. Figures included in the report state that at the start of 2018, UK small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses.

Furthermore, total employment in UK SMEs was approximately 16.3 million, 60% of all private sector employment, whilst combined annual turnover for SMEs was £2.0 trillion or 52% of all private sector turnover.

Andrew commented, “The importance of SMEs both on a regional level and to the wider UK economy cannot be underestimated. This is especially true of the North East where the innovation, vision and entrepreneurship across many different sectors, both traditional and new, is clearly evident. Our region is home to SMEs that are highly successful, not only in terms of products and services, but also in their ability to become market leaders on an international level, therefore it is vital that despite the Brexit discussions that are now dominating the headlines, we continue to support these companies and deliver the investment they need to grow.

“Since our launch earlier this year, the North East Fund has played an integral role in supporting companies like Ronco Engineering and Orchidsoft to maximise new business opportunities, invest in equipment, relocate to larger premises and create new jobs. Investment is available to SMEs in Durham, Gateshead, North Tyneside, Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland and South Tyneside over the next five years, and our fund managers will continue to deliver significant investment to boost and drive forward the North East economy.”

The BEIS report also indicated that there were currently 5.7 million private sector businesses in the UK, slightly fewer than the previous year, with owner managers equating for 75% of the total number. Companies with one single employee have significantly increased, accounting for 80% of the rise in business population. Construction was named as the dominant sector for SMEs.

Andrew added, “The economy is potentially facing a difficult period with much uncertainty, however the success of the North East Fund could help drive the region forward against this difficult backdrop. The Fund is the second of its kind in the North East to receive backing from the European Investment Bank and at present, our focus is to find good, exciting companies to invest in and start generating legacy returns that we can reinvest into the North East.”

Companies looking for investment can obtain more information from the North East Fund by visiting www.northeastfund.org.