Northern Ireland firms to benefit from £30m Growth Loan Fund II

3 Oct 2018

Belfast’s Titanic Museum. Image: graphicjet/Depositphotos

Invest NI wants to back SMEs that have growth potential.

Invest Northern Ireland (NI) has unveiled its £30m Growth Loan Fund II, a successor to the previous £55m Growth Loan Fund set up in 2012.

Finance for the Growth Loan Fund II is being provided by Invest NI, with additional funding from the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020. The fund will be managed by WhiteRock Capital Partners.

“The Growth Loan Fund has been a very successful stream of finance, helping over 100 businesses bring forward growth plans and develop exports,” explained William McCulla, director of corporate finance at Invest NI.

“Growth Loan Fund II will build on this over the next five years, providing loans ranging from £100k to £500k for growing businesses with an export focus.”

Ambition to grow

Three men in suits stand behind materials on a manufacturing line.

From left: Padraic McKeever, owner of Sports Merchandising Ireland; William McCulla, director of corporate finance at Invest NI; and Neil McCabe, senior investment manager at WhiteRock Capital. Image: Invest NI

One of the final companies to benefit from the original Growth Loan Fund is Sports Merchandising Ireland. The company, which supplies teamwear to sports clubs throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, used a £300,000 loan from the Growth Loan Fund to purchase additional stock and equipment.

“We wanted to be able to offer consumers a wider choice of sportswear outside of official brands,” explained Sports Merchandising’s owner, Padraic McKeever. “We are developing our own brand and we hold the LGFA license to supply Cork, Kerry, Armagh and Tipperary, and hope to add the men’s licence in the future.

“Our e-commerce platform has grown in recent years with orders from as far as the USA, Middle East and Australia. Our retail platform remains popular and we’ve invested £650,000 in our two new Intersport stores, creating 22 new jobs within the local community. The support from the Growth Loan Fund has allowed us to purchase a new embroidery production machine and invest in our own McKeever brand teamwear. We’re currently rebranding the business to McKeever Sports and this will be rolled out in the next six months,” McKeever added.

The original Growth Loan Fund played a pivotal role in supporting businesses to start up, grow and endure the travails of the economic recession.

“There have been a number of great success stories during the life of the Growth Loan Fund,” said Paul Millar, chief executive of WhiteRock Capital Partners. “For example, Vita Liberata, one of the first funding recipients, which was sold in a multimillion-pound deal earlier this year.

“The appetite for funding remains strong and we are delighted to continue as the fund managers for Growth Loan Fund II. Never before has Northern Ireland been able to offer such an extensive range of alternative finance options. As before, we will continue to work alongside primary banks, equity partners and asset-based funders to support businesses to reach their growth ambitions.”

Belfast’s Titanic Museum. Image: graphicjet/Depositphotos

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years