Firms urged to take advantage of assisted area status

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Borders businesses have been handed a “fantastic opportunity” to grow as a result of many parts of the region being granted assisted area status.

That is the view of Stuart Bell, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, as he urged local enterprises to take full advantage.

The designation, which began last year and is only guaranteed until 2020, allows existing and incoming firms to apply for European funding to help them expand or diversify.

This support is delivered in the form of regional selective assistance (RSA), a grant (not a loan), assessed and administered by Scottish Enterprise.

Companies with less than 50 employees can be given up to 30 per cent of the capital costs of expansion, either physical or technological.

“The bottom line for all eligible projects is that they must directly create or safeguard jobs, not offset job losses elsewhere, and they must involve an element of private sector capital investment by the applicants,” said Councillor Bell.

Earlier this month we reported that Tweed Horizons-based IT firm Agenor Technology had received an RSA grant of £240,000 to support its plans to take on 75 new staff over the next three years.

“That is the largest level of RSA we have heard about since the status was conferred last year and I sincerely hope it is the first of many,” said Mr Bell.

Tweed Horizons is situated within the pre-2007 council ward of Scott’s View. Other wards included in the assisted area map are Netherdale (Galashiels), Lower Langlee and Tweedbank, Melrose & District, Earlston, Gordon & District, Old Selkirk, Forest (including the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys, Galawater and Lauderdale (Heriot, Stow and Lauder), Hermitage (including Newcastleton) and the former Hawick wards of Silverbuthall, Wilton and Teviot & Central.

“It’s pleasing to note that Emtelle, which manufactures ducting and cabling systems in Jedburgh and to the east of Hawick, are having the confidence to grow, with a £5m investment announced last week, even although its factories are not on the assisted area map,” said Mr Bell.

“But for businesses in those areas with special status, RSA can be a real leg-up and a fantastic opportunity to prepare for the future.

“And for job-creating companies wishing to come here to take advantage of the railway, there are many superb sites which are eligible, not least the new Central Borders Business Park at Tweedbank.”

Mr Bell recalled that when assisted area status was last conferred on the Borders – from 2000-2006 – more than £3million was disbursed to companies to fill the void left by the collapse of the printed circuit sector.

“There is no ceiling on the amount of grants in the gift of Scottish Enterprise, so it would be a great shame if the take-up of RSA this time round was not even greater over the next five years,” he said.

For information on how to apply for RSA go to the Scottish Enterprise website or contact the Business Gateway on 01835 818315.