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Last week I went along to the Stockport Business Challenge and saw Stockport’s very own Dragons in action.

The event, held at the Town Hall, saw £200,000 of funding allocated to projects which will benefitStockport’s long-term economic growth… but not before the candidates had jumped through a number of Dragon-style hoops!

The 14 shortlisted projects had to impress not only the four Dragons but also the audience of over 100 people representing over 60 local businesses who had the casting vote.

The evening kicked-off with an exhibition of the short-listed projects, enabling the audience and Dragons to chat informally with the nominees and find out more about their proposals. Then the formalities began…a five minute presentation from each of the nominees followed by questions from the Dragons and voting from the audience.

The standard of the presentations was very high and all the nominees stood up well to questioning from the Dragons; Wayne Jones of MAN Diesel, Sue Souter of Souter PR, Pam Blanchard of ICA and Phil Brown of Benchmark Building Supplies.

The projects were divided into three categories; business, place and people; reflecting the key themes of the Stockport Economic Development strategy and within each category the top two scoring projects were allocated funding.

In the business category the winners were a business credit union (Bubble Partnership) and an LED plant growing research centre (Stopford Workshop). In the place category two proposals focussed on re-vitalising Stockport’s Market Place and town centre were successful; The Teenage Market (Screen Stockport) and a proposal to put on four food and drink events in and around the Market Hall (High Peak Beer Co), and in the people category the winners were a proposal to help cancer patients return to work (Beechwood Cancer Care) and “Pass It On” (Groundwork) a project aimed at supporting young people back into education, employment and training using a network of peer mentors.

The Stockport Business Challenge is a really innovative scheme which engages the local business community in deciding how funding is allocated – a first for Stockport and I believe the first scheme of this type in the UK. What is really exciting is that the projects that have now been allocated funding are innovative too. I’m really looking forward to watching these projects develop over the coming months…watch this space!