A printing company in Newton Aycliffe has converted its former premises into smaller workspace units, housing up to 11 small businesses, creating 55 additional rural jobs by March 2020, by using grant funding to leverage private investment.  

Newton Press, a family business established 57 years ago, moved to new, larger premises in the town in 2015 but retained its old site, a former munitions factory, with the aim of renovating and renting it out. Demand from small rural businesses looking for suitable space led its directors to rethink the renovations, opting instead to redevelop the property, creating 11 individual units to cater for small and micro enterprises. The building has been re-named Sydney House, to celebrate the entrepreneurial legacy of the firm’s founder, Syd Howarth MBE.

To help meet the £350,000 cost of the redevelopment, Newton Press received a grant of £110,000 via the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF) element of the North East Rural Growth Network, a programme designed to accelerate business growth in rural communities. In 2015, the Rural Growth Network secured £6 million capital investment from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) via the Local Growth Fund.

Six tenants have already signed up, one of which is contracted with a 10-year lease.

Stuart Howarth, Director of Newton Press, said: “Early on in the project we realised that there was a real need in the town for high quality accommodation for smaller businesses. The building work required to convert our building was a huge commitment. Without the funding, we couldn’t have created these much needed units and would have had to rent out the full site to just one company.

“A priority for us in terms of responsible development was making sure that the size of the units would qualify our tenants for small business rates relief, giving new and small business significant savings on business rates.

“We had so much interest in the smaller units that we actually converted space we had earmarked for storage into additional offices, just because there was so much demand.”

The newly-renovated Sydney House is named after Syd Howarth MBE, the founder of Newton Press who sadly passed away last year. He was a popular and well-respected member of the community, so much so that Newton Aycliffe Town Council have elected to have a street named after him in a new proposed housing development.

Mr Howarth’s three sons Paul, Stuart and Christopher who now run the business, plan to officially open Sydney House this summer.

Stuart Howarth added: “We renamed the site after our dad. We lost him last year, so we want to do everything we can to keep his memory alive. For 55 years, he gave his heart and soul to this community, receiving an MBE for services to the community, something we are passionate about as a family and a business.”

Katy McIntosh, Rural Growth Network Manager, worked with Newton Press to identify the grant funding opportunity and complete its successful application.

Speaking about the impact that the development will have on rural jobs Ms McIntosh said: “These units are a much needed addition to Newton Aycliffe’s commercial property offer, something that is evidenced by the demand for space coming from small and micro-sized businesses. Three of the six contracted tenants are already occupying units and the project is on track to add 3 direct and 52 indirect new jobs to our rural economy by next March.”

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “Having a supply of affordable, local property for new or small businesses is extremely important for the local economy. We congratulate Newton Press on their commitment to the local community and are pleased to have been able to support this project through the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund.”