Councils provide business grants – Business Forum

Helping businesses to help themselves was the message from a Business Forum at Alton Assembly Rooms.

The meeting, held on 5 October, focused on a grant scheme provided by East Hampshire District Council and Alton Town Council for businesses in Alton and Holybourne.

The Retail Improvement Grant Scheme is available to businesses looking to improve their trading conditions.

The grants can be used to enhance the appearance of their premises or invest in training and mentoring to focus on the customer care they provide to their clients.

The grant scheme allows retail businesses in rateable commercial buildings to apply for up to £1,000 towards the works they would like to undertake.

Scoring criteria will be applied to assess whether the application is appropriate for the grant funding scheme. A key stipulation is that the business must contribute at least 50 per cent of the cost of the work. Application forms and explanatory leaflets are available from Alton Town Hall or at www.alton.gov.uk.

The two key speakers at the Business Forum were Julie McLatch, the councils’ Business Development Manager for Alton, and Jim Smith, Director at Shopper Anonymous.

Julie discussed the initiatives at Alton Town Council and East Hampshire District Council which had taken shape over the past twelve months – ranging from the residents’ welcome pack for new developments, digital training for businesses, and enhanced promotion of tourism for the town.

She then focused on plans for the next twelve months – including the promotion of Alton as a tourist destination with an improved website for the town and encouraging walking holidays through the Town Council’s extended Walking Festival. The Economic Development Project for Alton will also continue to encourage apprenticeships and the employment of local people in local businesses and  focus on the improved street scene and retail environment encouraged by the setting up of the Retail Improvement Grant Scheme.

To support the scheme Jim Smith then discussed the importance of an inviting shop front to entice passing customers, and the crucial nature of ongoing customer care training to encourage repeat visits.

Questions from the floor ranged from public facilities provided to visitors to the town, Business Improvement Districts, accessibility issues, parking provision, and how the grant scheme will be applied.

For more information about the Retail Improvement Grant Scheme please contact business@alton.gov.uk.