It made the call following a report by ISME which stated that nearly half of small businesses that applied for bank loans had their applications rejected. LEADER East represents development companies in 11 counties in the east of Ireland.
LEADER is an EU initiative which provides a total of €425m in funding to companies, start-ups and initiatives in food, agriculture, tourism, technology, creative industries and the green and community sectors.
Commenting on the the ISME findings, Justin Larkin, spokesman, LEADER East, said: "It is regrettable that small to medium businesses are still finding it difficult to access credit from banks. However, the LEADER programme is open for business and continues to fund a wide range of community and private sector businesses.
"We are calling on anyone who has an idea for a business, requires funding to upgrade or expand their existing business or who wants to set up a community initiative to contact the LEADER programme in their area."
Larkin said that the Government should not waste more time and money looking to investigate other sources of funding for SMEs and said that the LEADER programme offered a viable alternative to the banking system. All funding must be approved by 31 December 2013.
Last week LEADER East announced that it had approved investments of almost €12m in the first half of 2012, including funding for projects such as Tayto Park in Ashboune, Co Meath, Ballykeefe Amphitheatre in Kilkenny and Pipecraft, Ireland's first dedicated uilleann pipe centre in Clonshaugh, Co Dublin.
SMEs can avail of €425m LEADER funding - Small Business - Small Business | Ireland's online business and management news service - Businessandleadership.com: