South-west showcase for business

RURAL businesses in south-west England show it is possible to innovate and grow, believes DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman.

Mrs Spelman's held a rural roadshow at the Devon County Show on Thursday (17 May).

She heard firsthand about rural issues from communities and businesses, learning about successes and challenges and about the help needed to support rural growth and jobs.

Ministers are holding a series of roadshows across England to ensure communities have a strong voice at the heart of government.

Mrs Spelman said: "The South West is home to some of the most enterprising and innovative entrepreneurs in the country, who have created new opportunities to build up thriving businesses.

"I'm looking forward to hearing about their experiences today to inform how we can best help every rural business to achieve its potential."

Devon and Somerset is one of five regions selected by Government earlier this year to benefit from a Rural Growth Network.

The networks will break down barriers to economic growth like shortage of work premises, poor access to broadband and fragmented business networks.

Mrs Spelman was due to visit Highbridge, Somerset, where a project aims to transform the prospects of start up companies by providing around ten newly built business premises with superfast broadband and the services of a business mentor.

The enterprise hub is just one of the projects that Devon and Somerset's Rural Growth Network is delivering as it aspires to create more than 1,300 jobs and boost the local rural economy by £58 million.

Mrs Spelman said: "We are funding Devon and Somerset's Rural Growth Network to help ensure that no great business idea is held back by the challenges of a remote location.

"Local entrepreneurs will have new chances to achieve their business potential, boosting the rural economy and supporting a thriving local community."

David Hall, Somerset County Council's portfolio holder for economy, said he believed the network would increase the opportunities for small businesses to "make a strong and sustainable start and encourage job and wealth creation across the county."

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership aims to create around 1,300 new jobs and of generating approximately £60 million of new productivity into the area.

It believes the network will help develop local supply chains and encourage participation from all sections of the community, through improved skills and knowledge transfer initiatives.



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