Loans company aims to “fill the gap” left by banks.
As ART Business Loans celebrated twenty years of lending to small businesses in the West Midlands at its AGM, Chief Executive Steve Walker said: “We are ready, willing and able to do more to fill the gap in the market for small business loans left by the banks. Both research and our experience on the ground show this gap to be bigger than it was in 1997, when we were set up to tackle the issue.”
Offering his congratulations on ART’s achievements over 20 years, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, who was guest speaker at the AGM, described ART as one of the unsung heroes of the local business finance scene, saying: “I first met Steve Walker when I became chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and was impressed by his knowledge, enthusiasm and determination when it comes to finance for enterprise.
“Access to finance was always a key issue raised with the LEP and ART was always there – from long before the LEP came into being – persistently working, even through difficult times, to ensure that businesses could access the finance they needed to survive and thrive. ART has made a big difference to hundreds of businesses and a huge contribution to the local economy over the past two decades. In some ways the access to finance situation has improved in recent years, but there are still issues to tackle.”
Steve Walker believes the issues remaining include the tendency for new initiatives led by the public sector to focus on larger, high growth, businesses. “Some businesses are finding it easier to access finance,” he says, “but those which are smaller and don’t fit the credit scoring criteria of either the banks or some of the new alternative finance providers, still need ART. We lend up to £150,000 to any type of business, for any business purpose. Our aim is to support local jobs for local people, remaining true to the mission set out by our founding chairman Sir Adrian Cadbury.”
Sir Adrian’s son Benedict and daughter Caroline attended the AGM along with over 60 ART members, borrowers, introducers, partners and supporters.
Nick Venning, the recently appointed new Chair of ART, said: “ART has £7.5 million to lend over the next three years, which is extremely good news. We are set to increase our loan book and are actively seeking additional funding to enable us to support even more businesses. ART’s approach is inclusive. We will continue to help any business in need of funding that in turn supports jobs and the local West Midlands economy.”
For more information about ART and its borrowers, or to apply for a loan see www.artbusinessloans.co.uk or call ART on 0121 359 2444.