More fledgling businesses in the Test Valley council area have been able to spread their wings - thanks to a small business incentive grant.

Plumbers, mobile locksmiths, landscape gardeners and website designers are just some of the Test Valley businesses that have benefited. The borough initiative provides a substantial grant to green shoots businesses and entrepreneurs in need of early support. The scheme has proved very popular with nearly 140 applicants since it started - spread right across the borough.

The Business Incentive Grant initiative, now in its fourth year, has provided over half its applicants with a £500 grant towards setting up their new business or creating a new full-time job in businesses with less than 15 employees.

David Gleave, the economic development officer for Test Valley Borough Council, explained: "It is important to invest in our local business community and provide opportunities for growth by encouraging new business and employment creation. The majority of businesses in Test Valley are small and they sometimes need extra support especially early on to be able to expand to their full potential."

David continues: "Positive feedback such as 'Business Incentive Grant - what a great idea,' 'enabled further training' and 'real morale booster in early stages' proves that the business incentive grant is a council initiative that really can make a difference."

Deborah Willis is one such success story. From her home in Nightwood Park, Chandler's Ford Deborah runs DW Training Solutions, a small company specialising in management development, team building and customer service. Happening upon the initiative by chance she applied successfully for the grant a year ago and has found it has given her a head start in her new business venture.

"The grant enabled me to carry out marketing work and upgrade my computer earlier than I anticipated which helped set the wheels in motion a lot faster," said Deborah. She has since received recognition from the prestigious Training Journal, read by the professional training community, winning trainer of the month November 2002.

"It was very straightforward to apply for the grant and the council were really helpful, answering any specific questions I had," Deborah explained. "I am located within the Test Valley area and was setting up my own small business so I fitted the bill. It was exactly what I needed."

The criterion is simple: the new business or new full-time employee must have residency in Test Valley. All consent, for example building and licensing, should also have been obtained. Any Test Valley business with less than 15 employees may apply and the new full-time employee must also be a borough resident.

Each successful applicant receives two visits from the council. The first comes soon after application so that they can demonstrate a need for the grant - whether it is a new full-time employee or help with start-up costs. If accepted then a second visit six months later will determine if the business is still applicable for the grant.

David said: "Setting up a new business is often risky and small businesses cannot always afford extra staff. The grant might just be what is required to help them survive increasingly competitive markets."

For more information on the business incentive grant initiative contact economic development officer David Gleave on 01264 368309.