£171m development bank boost for small businesses
A development bank for Wales has been given the official go-ahead to help small and micro businesses get off the ground or to grow.
Developed from Finance Wales, it will have a target of providing £80m a year within five years and creating 5,500 jobs annually.
EU and Welsh Government funding will kick-start the bank, aimed at micro, small start-ups and innovative firms.
The Wrexham-based bank's running costs will be self-sustaining from next year.
The Development Bank of Wales will work closely with Business Wales, the Welsh Government's business support service.
Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: "The development bank will be the first of its kind in the UK, addressing current market failures within business finance and providing focused support for micro, small start-ups and innovative businesses across Wales enabling them to become fitter, bigger and stronger."
A further £35m of European funding will be added to the £136m Wales Business Fund that was announced last year.
More money is expected to support the bank's work later this year.
CASE STUDY: GIVING BUSINESS A LIFT
Owen Edwards runs The Studio in Cardiff, a personal training centre with fitness classes. He is adamant it is very different from usual gyms. He had been a personal trainer in London and wanted to return home.
He launched the business six months ago with £20,000 of his own money, more from his father and £150,000 from Finance Wales.
Mr Edwards pays 10% interest on that loan. The stylish interior design and equipment is leased and his business plan aims to break even in six months, after a year's trading.
He said he could not have done it without Finance Wales as high street banks would not back him.
He said they took a detailed look and continue to check on his progress monthly.
"As a start-up, no-one traditionally looks at or gives you the time of day," said Mr Edwards.
"There's a risk involved. Finance Wales seemed to get the idea and really bought into it and understood the unique nature of the business."
FINANCE WALES - A SHORT HISTORY
2001: Finance Wales was set up with £45m to help smaller firms, with funding from the EU and Barclays. But it has been heavily criticised in recent years.
2013: Enterprise expert Prof Dylan Jones Evans's study, the Access to Finance Review, for the Welsh Government, looked at ways of making it easier for small companies to get funding.
His conclusion was that Finance Wales was not doing its job properly
That was backed in the May by a motion in the National Assembly saying that Finance Wales did not meet the needs of many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and that access to finance was still a problem.
2016: In April, Giles Thorley took over as chief executive of Finance Wales. He had nine years with Punch Taverns. The development bank was announced by Economy Secretary Ken Skates in December, who had also unveiled plans for a fund to help SMEs.
2017: According to its latest figures, Finance Wales created more than 1,100 jobs in 2015-16 and invested more than £56m in businesses.