UCIT Chief Executive’s Report
During 2014 we received the final loan repayment from one of our very first borrowers, Eskra Community Association. The organisation borrowed £40,000 during 2001 to meet the shortfall in a funding package for the building of a childcare centre which it was hoped would contribute to a wider strategy to halt the emigration of young families from this rural community in County Tyrone.
I am delighted to report that with UCIT’s assistance, the childcare centre is now a thriving business with over half a million pounds turnover, employing 38 staff who care for up to 150 children per day.
Today, UCIT remains true to our original aims and continues to offer competitive and flexible finance facilities to financially viable third sector organisations, which, through local economic initiatives contribute to their respective communities by providing services, support and employment.
Last year we made loans aggregating £3.7 million across 39 Charities, Community organisations and Social Enterprises in Northern Ireland. These included sporting organisations, community associations, workspace projects, faith based organisations and a wide range of other worthy recipients. In the majority of cases, without the support of UCIT these organisations would not have had access to funding.
These loan commitments have been funded entirely from UCIT’s own capital base. UCIT is committed to continuing its support of these important sectors however as the number of enquiries that we receive continues to grow, we need to explore new avenues for attracting further investment.
During the year we undertook a survey involving a sample of new loan clients (36 clients). What is clear from the survey is that our third sector borrowers are attracted to our competitive rates, flexibility and straight forward processes. I am pleased to report that over two thirds of our recent new loan clients scored our loan application process as excellent. It was also gratifying to note that just under half of the organisations surveyed were referred to UCIT via very favourable word of mouth.
While remaining true to our original aims, the organisation has evolved. We have strengthened our position further in the Republic of Ireland market with a range of new loans being approved through the support of the Social Finance Foundation (SFF). 32 loans were approved during 2014 to an aggregate value of €3.57million. We wish to formally record our gratitude to the SFF for their support in these endeavours.
Fund management is also now an important component of our business. Our successful management of the £5million NI Small Business Loan Fund on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland has ensured the access of funds to a wide range of businesses across all of Northern Ireland. We have demonstrated that there is a clear need for the fund based on the level of enquiries and number of loan approvals made. During the past two years, we have made over 130 loans aggregating in excess of £2.7 million. Businesses have been supported in 25 out of the 26 Council areas with an average loan amount of £20, 894. Funding has been provided for general start-up costs, refurbishment and repairs, machinery, franchise development, exporting as well as working capital finance. Within this investment process we are securing jobs that might otherwise be lost, and promoting employment which otherwise may not have existed.
In conclusion I would like to express my thanks to the Directors on the Boards of UCIT and UCIT (Ireland) who give their commitment, skills and support in a voluntary capacity. I would also like to thank the Staff for their endeavours and hard work throughout the year.
We look forward to 2015 and the continuing real and positive contribution of the Trust to local businesses and communities.
Harry McDaid, Chief Executive
Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT)