Increased Funding For Highland Opportunity’s Community Loan Scheme
Highland Opportunity has just announced increased funding totalling £500,000 for community and social enterprises across the Highlands for the next five years.
The new funds will come on stream with immediate effect and are available to fund; Capital projects; to cover gaps in grant funding; to provide bridging finance between expenditure and receipt of grant; and to give working capital to kick start a new venture.
The source of the funding is Social Investment Scotland and it will allow Highland Opportunity to increase the size of its revolving loan facility, the Community Enterprise Loan Fund (CELF), to £850,000.
Highland Opportunity originally launched its CELF in April 2003. A total of £400,000 worth of loans have been administered to date with no defaults. The fund was designed to meet the specific needs of “non-profit distributing” organisations working for the benefit of their local communities. Since its launch, CELF has provided cost-effective loan finance for different purposes to a whole range of organisations across the Highlands.
A number of community hall associations have been assisted with the costs of upgrading their existing hall or building a brand new facility. Loans to provide working capital have been provided to organisations as diverse as the Highland Real Nappy Project and the community-run Isle of Skye Ferry Company. Sporting organisations have also featured strongly with loans for equipment and infrastructure approved to community-run leisure centres, golf clubs and sport academies.
Kevin Gruer, Business Adviser for the CELF said: “While most organisations look for grant funding first, voluntary and community organisations now understand the value of cost-effective loan funding. For some, it enables them to complete their financial package or to access finance more quickly. Others use a loan to provide working capital or as bridging finance between expenditure and receipt of grant, and are most surprised just how cost-effective and straightforward loans can be.”
Highland Opportunity, the Enterprise Trust for the Highlands of Scotland, is owned by The Highland Council. Council Convener Sandy Park has stepped down from chairing the company, a role he took on when serving as Chairman of The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Service.
Earlier this week he was presented with a gift and thanked for his service by Councillor Helen Carmichael who has been appointed as the new Chairman of Highland Opportunity Limited.
Councillor Park said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my 11 years of Highland Opportunity, eight as Chairman. The company provides tremendous support for emerging and established businesses in the Highlands. I wish it well in the future.”
Councillor Carmichael said: “Board members wanted to recognise Councillor Park’s significant contribution to the company. My commitment is to maintain the success of the company in supporting local companies.”