Kent businesses get £35m loans fund to boost jobs
Businesses have been hearing details of a scheme to pump £35m into East Kent to boost the economy after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer pulled out of Sandwich.
Expansion East Kent will give interest-free government loans to businesses that prove they will create jobs.
"We have been tasked by the government to create 5,000 jobs over a four-year period," said Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council (KCC).
The scheme was launched at the Winter Gardens in Margate.
"The two main criteria are that applicants can prove that they want to expand their business and employ more people," said Mr Carter.
"They are interest-free loans that are repayable on flexible repayment terms.
"If we get it right and support the right enterprises we will be able to recycle this money again and again and again."
Kathy Collins, whose company, Bayfield, occupies Pfizer's old social club site, said it hoped to create 100 new jobs, including 20 at a new gym to be opened this summer.
Russ Pullen said his company, Flying Fish Hovercraft, based in Sandwich, would also be applying for a loan.
"We employ nine people at the moment. With the new products we are aiming to release if we can get those to market soon we can certainly double that number," he said.
Mr Carter said that loans may also be made to new businesses. Applications will be considered by independent assessors appointed by KCC.
Pfizer announced in February 2011 that it was closing its Kent base, which employed 2,400 people.
It later said it would retain 650 jobs, with 1,500 people being made redundant.
Pfizer's site at Sandwich, which has been renamed Discovery Park, is to be sold. The preferred bidder is a consortium led by London and Metropolitan, which will let space to other companies.