Changing The Face Of Regions High Streets

Members of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and resources Committee (14 Sept) will be asked to agree to allocations of £120,000 from the recovered Business Loan Fund to the High Street Challenge Fund scheme for 2021/22 and £75,000 from the unspent balance of the business support discretionary fund to support the Enterprise Seed Fund.

High streets across the UK have been devastated as shoppers have moved online. Although this was an existing trend, it has been accelerated by the lockdowns caused by Covid. Retail is the second biggest employment sector in our region, and it is likely that our high streets will continue to decline without proactive intervention.

One of the effects of this decline is empty retail outlets at the core of our high streets. Empty units in the middle of a row of shops changes the whole feel of the town. The High Street Challenge Fund removes barriers and aims to refresh the core of our towns by enabling aspiring entrepreneurs to start new businesses in the empty retail units, revitalising our town centres.

The High Street Challenge Fund support package will consist of the following support:
• for overhead costs over first year
• for fitout of the unit
• from place based Economic Development business advisers
• from an external retail consultant
• to create a business plan from an external business consultant
• to create an ecommerce website and social media from an external digital consultant

In an innovative approach, entrepreneurs will be able to compete to win a spot on the High Street in a “Dragons Den” style competition, based in areas, but will have support, if required, to hone their idea. All credible applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch their idea to the judging panel who will be drawn from local members, community group leads, local business owners and Economic Development staff. The competition will not be limited to traditional retail concepts but could include anything that has wide appeal to local residents and visitors.

The High Street Challenge Fund is just one of the ways our Council is looking at to help revitalise town centres and give businesses and our economy a boost. The proposed Enterprise Seed Fund scheme would deliver financial support by way of a discretionary grant to assist business start-up and early-stage development throughout our region. Support will be focused on achieving start-up and development funding for commercially viable businesses with an emphasis on creating jobs, increasing turnover, innovation, on-line trading, and exporting. This is a flat £1,500 matched funding scheme which requires a minimum investment of £1,500 from the applicant. The fund would allow 50 businesses to be supported. The grant can be paid to a new start business at the time of expenditure, to help kick start their journey.

To further aid our region’s businesses and economy, Flavour Fortnight will be rolled out during the October holiday. This will develop a strong programme of local food and drink tourism events in D&G, a minimum of 40 events and experiences, facilitating collaboration across the industry wherever possible. With the potential to achieve 4,000 participants and spectators an allocation of £20,000 in funding has been allocated from our Council and this has been matched by £15,000 from the Regional Food Fund and £5,000 from Event Scotland.

Chair of Economy and Resources Committee, Rob Davidson said: “I believe the High Street Challenge Fund is a great and very original idea. The support package is anticipated to cost up to £12,000 for each outlet and the target is that ten outlets will be filled, giving a total cost of the project of £120,000. This will not only re-vitalise our high streets, but create jobs, and have the knock-on effect of attracting shoppers to other premises in our towns. In addition to other schemes proposed, this should go a long way to revitalising our towns and encouraging people to ‘shop local.”
Vice Chair, Archie Dryburgh said: “Our Council are doing all that we can to help boost our local economy, particularly as we emerge from the pandemic which caused additional pressures on our local businesses and high streets. The proposed Enterprise Seed Fund scheme will not only aid start-ups, but also existing businesses which have been trading for up to 6 months, to aid early-stage development projects and/or feasibility studies. This could lead to much larger projects supporting Inclusive Growth, Place based growth, and fair work. With up to 50 businesses benefitting from the fund, we anticipate that this could create up to 75 jobs across the region, giving a further boost to our economy in D&G”

For more information, and to read the full report, go to:

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