WHAT do entrepreneurs, town centres and economic recovery have in common? They all benefit each other.

Business Wales, the Welsh Government development agency, has urged people to take advantage of the Town Centre Entrepreneurship Fund in a bid to boost the post-pandemic economy in towns in North Wales.

The £3million scheme, which launched in June, is providing grant funding and loans to help entrepreneurs start their business in Rhyl, as well as selected towns Colwyn Bay, Bangor and Wrexham.

The year-long scheme aims to revitalise town centres which have been "severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic" and give entrepreneurs "a helping hand" amid a difficult economy.

David ap John Williams, national contracts manager for Business Wales, said: “As we’re still trying to understand the full impact of the pandemic, it is clear that town centres have been severely impacted. We think it’s now time to think differently about the high street. It is no longer the domain of big brands.

“This offers local entrepreneurs exciting opportunities to be innovative and make use of the space that has become available.

“Traditionally our town centres were the heart of the community and a focus for local trade. With new opportunities opening up, this could be the case once again as local companies and small business become the heartbeat of our towns.”

Under the scheme, a match-funded grant of £2,500 to £10,000 supports businesses with the revenue costs associated with starting up or relocating to a town centre, while the loan element operated by the Development Bank of Wales will offer sums from £1,000 through to £50,000.

Applicants also have to meet criteria including being a new business start-up or a micro business employing up to nine employees, trading for less than two years and provide a viable 12-month business plan for the designated town centre location.

There are other Welsh Government initiatives designed to support town centres, including the £136million Transforming Towns programme, with £50m ringfenced for North Wales.

In Rhyl, this has included £25 million to improve underutilised commercial and residential property such as the Queens Market Building, Costigan’s and the old Post Office.

In Colwyn Bay, £1.4m has been awarded for business owners to enhance building frontages and bring vacant floorspace back into business use.

Another initiative from the Welsh Government is the SMART Towns project, which aims to help businesses to make the best use of digital technology, for example using data to better understand their customer base and trends to inform their future planning and marketing activities.

Economy minister Vaughan Gething said: “Our town centres have been severely impacted by the pandemic, but there is also a great deal of potential there too. The Town Centre Entrepreneurship Fund pilot in four north Wales towns aims to give entrepreneurs a helping hand to set up business there, which will also increase activity and footfall.”