Through the Vibrant Economy workstream, close to £36,000 of funding has been awarded to local business associations across East Suffolk who are wishing to develop their organisational capacity and/or deliver projects that will grow their local economy. 

Each business association supports between 50 and 150 members within their individual locality but rely heavily on volunteers to develop and maintain any activity.

The Capacity Building Grant programme has enabled the organisations to put in place the support mechanisms by which to develop their services and have the opportunity to thrive and grow for the benefit of both their members and the local community in which they operate.

Through the Vibrant Economy workstream businesses are becoming better connected with each other and have improved access to the information, knowledge and resources that will enable them to grow.

12 Specific impacts from the Business Associations funding programme include:

•Bespoke and professional marketing campaigns were undertaken to increase business association membership numbers in Beccles.

•The development of a back office events booking system including an automated payments system to increase the efficiency of the promotion and administrative process for town centre events in Bungay.

•The development of a database communications system with the ability to generate and send bulk/targeted emails - including suffolkcoastbusiness.co.uk

•The recruitment of association administrators and membership secretaries and event to support on the organisation of meetings, events and general secretarial support for the committees and members in Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth, Kirkley and Southwold.

•The creation of new websites with enhanced content and improved functionality to promote both the destination and its businesses helping to raise the profile of the area and increase membership of the association.These include: visitbeccles.co.uk and www.halesworthbusiness.org.uk

•Research by Suffolk Coast Business on the precise positioning of business associations and their activity within their localities and an understanding of the benefits expected by members identified to ensure support is targeted towards members needs.

• A bespoke training programme developed for businesses to understand the benefits of using social media to improve their business marketing.

Business Association Network meetings The East Suffolk Business Association Network (ESBAN) aims to ensure businesses are better informed and have improved access to the comprehensive business support services available to them.

Two meetings were held in 2016/17 and have resulted in businesses and community groups being able to understand the priorities of the rural funding programme LEADER and the application process to then feel confident to submit project ideas. Business associations and community groups have also been supported to navigate the practical and regulatory steps necessary to run successful events in their towns and villages.