The awards will thank the unsung heroes of the region at a ceremony in January. The Express & Star prides itself in helping local communities and has delivered a number of key community campaigns including Cash For Your Community a fund for local good causes, apprentices drive Ladder for the Black Country and the Green Shoots Fund for local businesses.
Cash For Your Community, a £35,000 grant project for local small good causes organised with Homeserve, saw more than 100 not-for- profit community groups, charities or social enterprise organisations benefit.
Through the Ladder campaigns, run in partnership with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, Performance Through People and the Vine Trust, more than 1,000 apprenticeships have been created.
Each apprenticeship is estimated to be worth £10,000 to the local economy, with the overall benefit to the region calculated at more than £10 million. The campaign has been praised by its patron HRH the Duke of York, who hosted a Ladder celebration for Black Country apprentices at St James’ Palace in May, where he praised the work carried out by the MNA’s staff and local businesses.
The Express & Star Green Shoots Plus campaign, operated with the University of Wolverhampton to distribute Regional Growth Fund grants to local businesses, is on course to deliver more than 230 jobs by 2017 and has safeguarded a further 92 jobs.
The campaign has seen £3 million distributed in the Black Country and will generate a further £6 million in private sector investment across the Black Country, Staffordshire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire.
So far £3.1 million of grants have been allocated, meaning there’s still just over £1.1 million available for businesses looking for support for their growth plans, bringing at least a further £3.5 million of private investment.
As well as benefiting the wider community, the positive contribution made by the Express & Star has increased the “feel good factor” among staff.
MNA print managing director Graeme Clifford said: “As the leading local publisher for the Black Country region, the Express & Star’s approach is to be a positive force for good in local life by making a difference to the communities we serve.
“As well as reporting on local life for more than 130 years, the company aim to create good news for the region by playing a leading role over employment, business, social issues and long term growth.
“By launching the Great Big Thank You Awards this year we hope to shed some light on a number of local heroes in the area and give them the recognition they deserve.”