A business support group is celebrating 40 years of helping Hartlepool companies.
UK Steel Enterprise has helped keep thousands of people employed whilehelping companies to grow.
Bosses say the organisation has been a constant in a business landscape that has seen many changes and has now invested more than £20.6m into 1,230 businesses in the North.
One successful business, Hart Biologicals, has grown from a small start-up to an award-winning medical diagnostics company with a 40-strong team thanks to the help of a series of three investments and long-term support from UKSE.
The company now has a global network of distributors for its range of specialised haemostasis products.
It was 14 years ago that UK Steel Enterprise first backed biochemist Alby Pattison with a small unsecured loan to help him start Hart Biologicals with three staff in a small UKSE incubator unit in Hartlepool.
We are always happy to talk to businesses from Hartlepool and other steel areas that need help with a business projectSarah Thorpe
The unit was the forerunner of the multi-million pound Innovation Centre that UKSE went on to build at the Queens Meadow Business Park and is now home to more than 40 growing businesses.
In 2010, the Tata Steel business-support subsidiary provided a second loan as the company grew. Then, in 2014, a third investment of a £95,000 loan and a £39,000 grant, available thanks to support from the government’s Regional Growth Fund, backed Hart Biological’s ambitious £500,000 expansion project.
A move to purpose built premises at the Rivergreen Business Centre provided the space for its growing research and development team and the prospect of 13 additional jobs.
Alby said: “At the start we needed to acquire the intellectual property of selected products and to purchase equipment.
“The finance, advice and enthusiasm that we had from UK Steel Enterprise was such a help as starting a new business seemed a big step to take and was new to me. Our relationship has continued and we still benefit from their input.”
Sarah Thorpe, of UK Steel Enterprise, said: “There is no doubt that the experience and expertise UKSE has built up over four decades has been valuable for businesses like Hart Biologicals which is a great example of the type of business we look to support. It has grown, created valuable jobs and enhanced Hartlepool’s reputation.
“UKSE has been a constant in a business landscape that has seen many changes in 40 years and has now invested more than £20.6m into 1,230 businesses in the North. We are always happy to talk to businesses from Hartlepool and other steel areas that need help with a business project.”
UK Steel Enterprise provides equity finance of up to £1m with loan finance available from £25,000 and often unsecured. A Regeneration Fund helps start-up and early stage companies with smaller loans of up to £7,500.
Sarah added: “Obtaining finance can be one of the most stressful times for any business. We try to make the process as smooth and speedy as possible and, because we are all about regeneration and job creation, we can often be more flexible than other funders.”