HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds are up for grabs for the brains across Warwickshire who have the best ideas for boosting the county’s economy.
At Warwick’s independent shop haven Smith Street, the county council this week launched its new Operation Footfall project, which is making available £400,000 worth of funding to businesses and groups in Warwickshire’s towns for schemes and events designed to bring people to the area to spend money.
Julie Crawshaw, programme manager for regeneration projects at the council, said: “We knew that Warwickshire towns are feeling the impact of the difficult commercial environment, so before things got too difficult, we wanted to put in measures to keep business buoyant. We want to make sure that the towns still have a lot of offer.
“You can do a lot with £400,000. A food festival would cost around £30,000 and an internet project around £7,000. The funding will go a long way.
“Businesess do not need to match the funding like with a lot of other similar schemes. I have already heard from a lot of interested traders.”
The funding will be available until it runs out, but the council is expecting projects to be up and running by March next year.
The scheme was welcomed by Smith Street traders at its launch. Paul Evans, who owns Barbers of Warwick and is also a key player in the Smith Street Traders Association, said: “People have got to understand that the high street is not dead or dying, it’s just changing.
“I am confident that this funding will fit together well with other other things that are going well in Warwick. It will be the final piece of the jigsaw to push things forward.
“I opened my shop in 2007, just as the recession started, but every year my business has grown and I have seen lots of new businesses coming in.
“It is not easy at the moment, but it is not the end of the world. Some people are getting great results.”
Maria Denney, owner of the Golden Monkey Tea Company, is one such example. After opening her independent specialist tea shop four years ago, she has expanded it to encorporate an internationally-trading website.
She said: “Raising awareness of small independent businesses that are critical to the heart of a town is very important. Every little bit of publicity helps to bring the community closer and it also means that the money spent in the town stays in the town.”
To find out more about the project, visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/operationfootfall