Business support available at Wakefield First
More than 7,000 local businesses have been helped by the business arm of Wakefield Council with grant funding, recruitment support, locating premises and general business support.
Since November last year the team at Wakefield First have distributed £57m in grant funding to businesses across the district in a total of 23,000 payments.
Councillor Darren Byford, portfolio holder for Economic Growth, says the financial support was just one of a number of steps to help the district recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“This is a huge sum of money that was given to ensure businesses survive when they have not been able to do what they have wanted to do, to trade and interact with the public,” he said.
“We had strict criteria for the type of businesses we could fund, so we haven’t been able to help everybody, but it has made all the difference to many businesses – otherwise the problems that they are facing now would have been absolutely horrific.”
A Wakefield Recovery Board has been established to support businesses as well as residents, with the launch of a new Business Support and Inward Investment Strategy to secure the district’s economic recovery. Its aim is to help businesses here to grow and thrive, whilst also raising the profile of Wakefield district to increase investment into the district.
Developer confidence in Wakefield is higher than ever, with speculative builds of more than 500,000sqf being built across the district and developments resulting in around 800 jobs and over £5.6m of investment into Wakefield.
Councillor Byford says the number of new developments underway in the area is heartening proof of a brighter future ahead.
“These new companies will bring prosperity to individual families when people start working there and earning a decent wage, which will help their families to grow and thrive, and in turn we will see that money further invested when it is spent in local businesses,” he said.
“Wakefield’s unrivalled connectivity makes the district attractive to many sectors including advanced manufacturing and logistics, and our close proximity to neighbouring cities like Leeds and Sheffield mean professional services and creative, digital and tech businesses are drawn here.”
The Business Support and Inward Investment Strategy focuses on improving opportunities for residents by creating jobs and upskilling.
Its vision is “that we want people to come and live here and establish their businesses here”, explained Councillor Byford. “The big businesses of tomorrow will come from nurturing the SMEs of today, so we want to give them the opportunities they need now, whether that’s a space to work in or just putting them in touch with the right people.”
Wakefield First, which is sponsoring Wakefield Excellence in Business Awards, offers a wealth of contact information online and should be the first port of call for anyone needing advice and guidance.
“It is about being sustainable – we can offer you advice and help with finding staff or establishing apprenticeship schemes, for example,” he added. “There is also the Step-Up employment and skills service for anyone who is looking for work, changing careers or working towards promotion, or simply wanting to learn new skills or work towards qualifications.
“An ambassador programme has also been set up to bring together passionate businesses and individuals to help put Wakefield on the map. The programme gives ambassadors the tools they need to speak up for our place to their networks regionally, nationally and internationally.”
Any business looking for free and confidential business support should visit www.wakefieldfirst.com today, or call the customer contact centre on 0345 8 506 506 and ask to speak to the business support team.