Collaboration is 'key for rural business'

WORKING well together is a key factor behind the success of some rural micro-businesses, says a report.

The assertion is made in a policy paper that pinpoints key factors behind the success of rural micro-businesses at a time of economic difficulty.

The value of England's rural economy is around a fifth of the national total, and the vast majority of rural businesses are very small, it says.

Clearly, every business will need its own recipe for success, says the Commission for Rural Communities report.

But reasons for the continuing success of some rural micro-businesses are many and various.

Some small rural businesses have diversified into other areas of business activity, such as letting out accommodation for other businesses to use

Others have found success by identifying a niche market, including those with a rural-focused product, or in a location where that product is currently hard to obtain.

Examples include specialist food producers or providers of holiday accommodation.

Successful rural businesses have often benefited from developing a deep understanding of the needs of their local market, the report says.

Rural holiday providers, for example, have sometimes found ways of packaging their products and selling them to a wider market.

Such networks are also a valuable way of linking small rural businesses with public sector initiatives.

Recent research by the commission has also examined the links between Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and the rural economy.

Findings indicated that some LEPs are engaging well with rural businesses, but that in many areas greater engagement would bring economic dividends.

The policy paper echoes that finding, and recommends that LEPs and others should engage closely with formal and informal associations of small rural businesses.

The paper acknowledges a number of positive Government initiatives aimed at helping businesses to grow during difficult economic times.

It also makes a number of recommendations which would improve the prospects for many rural micro-businesses.

LEPs should draw on the energy and potential of voluntary organisations to encourage support to rural small businesses, the report says.

Commission chairman Stuart Burgess said, "The most important factor behind any small business is the business acumen of the owner or manager.

I have spoken to many successful rural micro-businesses up and down the country and been hugely impressed by the inventive ways in which they have continued to thrive at a challenging time.

I believe that government and other public sector bodies can do even more to help such businesses do well, and among our recommendations the importance of fast broadband connectivity in rural areas is key."



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