More than 100 companies, including Bentley, Pirelli and JC Bamford, are to share £950m in government support designed to bolster industry in hard-pressed parts of the country.
Successful bidders for a slice of the money were announced yesterday by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who said the move would safeguard or create more than 300,000 jobs.
Beneficiaries included Sheffield Forgemasters in Mr Clegg's home city, but he denied its inclusion was an attempt to repair the political damage he sustained last year when ministers cancelled an £80m loan promised by Gordon Brown's government.
Mr Clegg said the bids selected for support under the £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund will "jump-start growth and create jobs that last in the places that really need it", leveraging in up to £6bn in private-sector investment. Labour said last night that two-thirds of bidders had been rejected.
Gordon Marsden, the shadow minister for regional growth, said: "It will take more than warm words from the Deputy Prime Minister to persuade businesses up and down the country that this Government has what it takes to kick-start growth."