GROW South Antrim is celebrating the successful delivery of over £2.2m of funding to support rural businesses, community organisations and village renewal projects across the Borough.
The significant investment - under Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (NIRPD), which is funded by DAERA and the European Union - has benefitted 76 diverse projects and helped to create 65 new full-time equivalent jobs.
With the programme having reached its end, GROW members will gather in September for their final Board meeting to mark the grant scheme's successful completion and reflect on its achievements.
Chairperson Councillor Vera McWilliam said there will be mixed emotions as the members gather one last time.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved under the NIRDP 2014-20 programme,” she said.
“The funding we have administered has resulted in a total investment in the area of grant funding and public and private match funding of over £4m, providing a much needed financial boost to our rural communities.
“I want to thank all the applicants who took part in the programme, and I would also like to congratulate my fellow Board members - both councillors and social partners - on their commitment to ensuring this funding was successfully delivered.”
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Alderman Stephen Ross has also paid tribute to those who participated in the success story.
“All 16 members of GROW South Antrim LAG should be proud of what they have accomplished,” he said.
“They have committed thousands of hours of voluntary time to this programme, and our rural communities will reap significant benefits as a result.”
The majority of NIRDP 2014-2020 funding - a cool £1.3m - was awarded to 45 rural business projects, under the Rural Business Investment Scheme.
One such business was Glendale Tree Services, which benefitted from funding towards two projects.
The first successful application saw the construction of a new office and reception area - which supported the employment of an administrator to support business development - while the second grant allowed the firm to purchase specialist machinery and created two additional jobs.
Stewart and Kirstie Cameron of Glendale said the support had made a huge difference.
“The support we received from the GROW programme was invaluable for the expansion of our business and it has helped us secure a positive future.
“We highly commend the GROW staff we dealt with during all stages of our projects and the helpful, efficient and professional way they delivered the programme.”
In recognition of the work undertaken by GROW, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council will host a celebration lunch in September for all LAG members involved in the delivery of NIRDP prior to its formal closure.