Barclays has launched a new £500m growth fund for small and medium-sized businesses in the North of England as part of the bank’s commitment to support the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative.
The new fund is available from today to inject investment into businesses across the region with favourable terms for manufacturing, transport and logistics companies, helping them to grow and create new 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 £500m Northern Powerhouse Growth Fund, enabling businesses across the North to invest in jobs and growth.”
The new fund was announced by Jes Staley as he visited Thornton Brothers Limited, in Ashington.
The business was founded by two brothers George and Keith Thornton in 1979, who started out with £25k of lending from their local Barclays branch.
They have since built up the business, which now employs over 70 highly-skilled engineers who modernise fleets of buses for major transport providers across the UK, including Transport for London (TfL), Go-Ahead and First Group Ltd.
George Thornton, co-founder of Thornton Brothers Limited, added: “Our family-run business was founded 40 years ago with the help of a loan from Barclays, which is why it’s so fantastic to see a growth fund of this size being launched today to help other entrepreneurs just like us.
“We specialise in bus refurbishment, serving a number of transport providers from across the country, helping them to modernise their fleets and serve communities.
“This fund will be a real boost to businesses just like ours across the North of England. Gaining access to finance over the years has enabled us to grow our business, hire a number of skilled engineers and build a new state of the art garage with some of the best specialist facilities of their kind in the UK.”
Later, Jes Staley also met Barclays apprentices at one of the bank’s major contact centres in Doxford International Business Park, near Sunderland.
The centre employs 1,600 people in customer support roles doing everything from providing mortgages, to helping to fight fraud against customers, to advising small businesses.
During the visit, Jes Staley announced a pilot scheme for new retail entry roles in the bank’s Sunderland and Liverpool contact centres to be focused towards apprenticeships first.
He said: “We’ve discovered at Barclays that the ‘can-do’ attitude our apprentices have means they are excellent at helping our customers and clients. We want more people to have the life-changing career opportunity that a quality apprenticeship provides.”
Barclays has a substantial commitment to the North of England, employing around 12,000 people in high quality jobs across the region, including nearly 1,000 apprentices in branches, contact centres and technology roles, and providing some of the country’s leading technology jobs at the bank’s Radbroke Park Centre in Knutsford, Cheshire.
The bank will also shortly open new Eagle Labs – dedicated co-working spaces for promising startups to grow and collaborate – in Newcastle and Sheffield, adding to its existing Labs in Salford and Liverpool.
Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, also said: “When I was elected a year ago I said that I was committed to expanding the sources of finance available to businesses.
“Today’s announcement by Barclays is excellent news for the entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses in the Tees Valley.
“Barclays new £500m growth fund means the risk takers and job creators that are powering our growth now have access to an even greater pool of funding.
“Our region is full of so many great businesses, operating in a diverse range of fields ranging from life sciences, digital and heavy engineering, and I would encourage any company that is looking to grow and expand to explore this exciting new funding stream.”