Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has officially opened the Northern Zone Social Enterprise Hub at Ballymena’s Ecos Centre.
Serving ten council areas, the Hub will provide a range of services for new social enterprise businesses including hot desking facilities, conference/meeting rooms, training suites and potential shop front retail space.
Speaking at the formal launch Minister McCausland said: “Developing the social economy sector has been a priority for the Northern Ireland Executive for some time and the Executive is well aware of the important and unique contribution which the sector can and does make to the local economy. This is evidenced by the Executive reaffirming its commitment to the sector by including in the Programme for Government measures to boost and grow Northern Ireland’s ‘strong entrepreneurial tradition’.
“This hub marks the third such hub to open for business following one in Londonderry and the other in West Belfast with an additional eight to follow in the coming months. It is important that Government continues to support and invest in helping social enterprises get started which will stimulate job creation and focus on social benefits to local people.”
Concluding the Minister said: “Third Sector organisations such as LEDCOM have a significant role to play in rebuilding and rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy and I would take this opportunity to acknowledge the important contribution which this particular sector continues to make.”
The initiative, which is one of the Signature Programmes being taken forward under the Northern Ireland Executive’s Delivering Social Change framework, seeks to tackle poverty and social exclusion through the establishment of 11 Social Enterprise Hubs across Northern Ireland. With funding of £4million from the Executive’s Delivering Social Change fund, the Signature Programme is being led by the Department for Social Development and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in conjunction with Invest NI. The Programme will tackle unemployment and community eyesores by encouraging new social enterprises.
As a long established and successful social enterprise in its own right, Larne-based LEDCOM has been appointed to manage the Hub at the Ecos. Those interested in setting up or developing a social enterprise can avail of a range of support, including free training, best practice visits, fab lab sessions, business clinics, mentoring support and free incubation space for up to 6 months.
Ken Nelson, Chief Executive of LEDCOM said: “LEDCOM is delighted to have been appointed to manage the Northern Zone Hub. The Hub will be an important catalyst for the social economy in this region. The concept of using established and successful social enterprises like LEDCOM to help stimulate and support the sector is a proven one. The Hub takes this approach to the next level by creating a wrap round supportive environment for these start up social enterprise ventures. It will be exciting to see what happens.”
Under the Signature Programme, the Social Enterprise Hubs are available to all new or existing social enterprises with an idea for a new product or service. All potential social enterprises can avail of free workshops, training and mentoring one-to-one support. Further information on the Northern Zone Social Enterprise Hub is available from LEDCOM on (tel.) 028 25650989 or (email) email@example.com