Helping hand brings small NI businesses a long way
“The banks also claim many loan applications are too high-risk. This too appears not to be the case, given that 40 per cent of small firms appealing against loan refusals to an independent adjudicator are granted the money. The reality is that the big banks are holding on to the money and excusing themselves by suggesting small firms do not want to borrow it.”
The UK government has just launched a potential £80 billion scheme to deliver “credit easing” to the UK economy. The Funding for Lending Scheme incentivises banks and building societies to increase lending to UK households and businesses by letting them borrow from the Bank of England for up to four years.
According to the UK treasury, “banks will have strong incentives to boost lending, by lowering interest rates and increasing the availability of business loans and mortgages. The more they lend, the more they can borrow from the Bank of England.”
But will it make a difference in the North? The SDLP’s economy spokesman, Mid-Ulster MLA Pasty McGlone, believes “it has the potential to provide a much-needed boost to our local economy”. He has written to the chief executives of Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland, First Trust, Northern Bank and Santander, asking them to detail how they intend to utilise the £80 billion scheme in Northern Ireland.
In the meantime, companies such as Newtownabbey-based Acksen will concentrate on how best to grow their business as cost-effectively as possible. The Queen’s University spin-out, which specialises in datalog devices for monitoring and tracking electricity voltage, recently won its first order in Poland after a government trade mission.
Charlene Thompson, Acksen’s sales manager, said it signed a distribution deal in Warsaw and a partnership agreement with a distributor in Prague. The company, which employs four people, has plans to look further afield for business, particularly to the US. “I don’t know why more companies don’t take part in trade missions; it really doesn’t cost that much money and it is a great way to meet people and to make things happen,” she said.
Acksen and Crawford’s Foods are thriving Northern Irish companies. But countless others cannot find the space to manoeuvre because they have been locked into financial straitjackets by banks. Could the new funding initiative help give them a chance to shine? Sadly that may be up to the banks to decide.