AN enterprise initiative which has helped establish and expand several businesses is being introduced into a second North-East town.

In September, an initiative was launched in Hartlepool to help would-be and new entrepreneurs to set up in business by offering them market stalls in the town’s Market Hall.

Since then, 20 businesses have been set up through the initiative by Hartlepool Borough Council, and all but two of the tenants have now negotiated terms to continue with their stalls on a permanent basis. Visitor numbers in the market have increased by more than ten per cent.

The scheme has been given the backing of Sir Alan Sugar, the Government Enterprise Tsar who began his multi-million pound empire as a market stall trader.

Now, following the lead of Hartlepool, a similar project is being set up in Bishop Auckland, and already in its first few weeks has seen the creation of ten businesses.

The Enterprise Arcade initiative offers space in the town’s InShops centre, and new ventures include a drumkit maker, car polish specialist and an eco-fashion outlet.

Tim Pain, head of business, enterprise and skills at regional development agency One North East, said such initiatives offer valuable opportunities to those just starting out in business.

“There is a risk to the local economy of people becoming long-term unemployed, or of talented people leaving the region in search of better opportunities, so it is imperative we deliver projects like this to help the North-East be in the best possible place for economic recovery,” he said.

Andrea Miles, manager of Hartlepool Enterprise Centre, said the Hartlepool market project had paid dividends.

“A lot of hard work has gone into making this project a success and there were always going to be people who were wondering whether it was going to be worthwhile,” she said.

“We went into this initiative with two aims – to help new businesses test out their ideas, and to encourage more shoppers into the Market Hall to support the new and existing stallholders.

“Footfall has been up by more than ten per cent, which is fantastic in the current economic climate and we have all of these new businesses which may not have considered self employment without this initiative.”

Sue Parkinson, project manager at the Enterprise Arcade initiative, which is funded by One North East as part of a joint venture between County Durham Enterprise Agencies and InShops Centres Limited, said: “Some people we have worked with have been thinking about starting their own businesses but didn’t know how to go about it. This way they get to test their ideas with an easyin easy-out approach that does not tie them to long leases and means they do not have to buy masses of stock.”