Butcher wins expansion grant

A County Durham catering butcher offering fully traceable meat from local farmers has won a government grant to expand his business into larger premises.

Mike Fenwick Quality Catering Butchers in Newton Aycliffe - which supplies meat to hotels, restaurants, pubs, golf clubs, nursing homes and industrial caterers right across the North - has won a £236,000 investment from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to relocate to a new unit on the Aycliffe Industrial Park in Darlington.

The move will enable the company to source beef, pork and lamb directly from local farmers - increasing quality and offering products that can be fully traced for both catering customers and shoppers at a new retail outlet. The 10,000sq ft base on Hurworth Road will allow the company to make its production processes more efficient, with larger fridges and freezers, new sausage-making machinery and meat-dicing equipment to produce large volumes more quickly.

The investment will also help the firm buy new machinery so that it can start curing its own bacon and manufacture a range of cooked meats.

The relocation and launch of the additional activities are expected to be completed next year, creating a number of new jobs.

Owner Mike Fenwick said: "We're really pleased and excited about the move, which is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the last eight months and will set up the business for the future.

"With so many firms having such a tough time at the moment, it's reassuring that we've been able to secure this financial support for a project that will create new jobs and help us expand our product range.

"Our orders are well up on last year and the Christmas rush is as busy as ever, so we're looking forward to the move in the New Year."

The RDPE investment is jointly funded by the European Union and Defra, and is managed in the region by One North East.

The Agency's rural board member Ian Brown said: "At a time when many businesses are finding it more difficult to access finance for growth, it's fantastic to see RDPE helping a successful business to expand, creating new jobs and opening more opportunities for farms throughout the supply chain.

"One of our central aims for RDPE is to support projects that can add significant value to agricultural products and which boost productivity, skills and employment in the long-term - which is exactly what these plans aim to do."

HW Chartered Accounts has been working with the business to secure the funding and grant aid required for the project.

HW corporate finance manager Graham Cornforth said: "This is an excellent example of how the expansion of a north-east business can have a positive knock-on affect on other local businesses.

"One North East has been very helpful and pragmatic throughout the process of securing the RDPE grant."

The Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013 is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union, with the aim of delivering targeted support to rural businesses and communities. It is managed in North East England by One North East, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.