Charitable housing association BCHA is celebrating the successful completion of a partnership with Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which has seen The Factory, its multi-use facility in Poole, acquired, refurbished and operational during the past three years.
Through its Growing Places Fund scheme, Dorset LEP provided a low interest five-year loan of £775,000 which enabled BCHA to purchase the former Remploy factory at Alder Hills and transform it into a business development and training hub to create a small business and social enterprise centre of excellence, which has led to the creation of 26 jobs.
The Dorset LEP Growing Places Fund is designed to unlock capital projects which have significant economic impact and the potential to increase innovation and productivity, create new jobs and housing.
Martin Lucas, BCHA Director of Finance & Corporate Resources, said: “This is an excellent example of partnership working between two of Dorset’s premier organisations which has led to the establishment of this brilliant facility.
"We are extremely grateful to Dorset LEP for the provision of this short term loan funding to enable us to invest back into the community to develop this vital resource, create jobs and provide skills opportunities for so many people.
“It would have been exceedingly difficult to achieve this without the backing of Dorset LEP – as well as a significant donation and interest free loan from Talbot Village Trust.
“We now face the exciting challenge of attracting more co-worker and conference bookings from the wider business community, public bodies, the NHS and schools and colleges for our facilities.
“The refurbishment was completed in August 2015 and the Factory has since grown into a popular workspace. There is a friendly, family atmosphere and shared responsibility between staff, co-workers and longer term tenants.”
The Factory also provides catering and café amenities and offers office rental, conferencing facilities, co-working desk hire and business administration services and operates as part of the New Leaf Company Limited, a subsidiary of Bournemouth-based BCHA.
A key tenant since 2016 has been not-for-profit charity Dorset Scrapstore which recycles unwanted materials and sells them to businesses and community groups. Businesses based at the premises include a specialist printer/model aircraft kits supplier and a bespoke designer of soft furnishings firm.
The Factory has housed the BCHA finance and IT teams since last August and currently hosts courses held by the skills academy New Directions, which helps people find job opportunities in the engineering and manufacturing sector locally as well as other local businesses
The Factory has also been used for a number of half term and summer workshops and regular craft events for the local community, as well as a DIY wedding fair and the launch of the BCP Homelessness Street Support campaign.
Sara Uzzell, Chair of Dorset LEP Growing Places Fund Steering Group, said: “Boosting business and jobs is a cornerstone of our work. We are delighted to have been able to support BCHA in the successful completion of The Factory and its transformation into a new business development, supporting small business and social enterprise.”