A £15m project to boost the rural economy will create more than 3,000 jobs and 700 businesses, claims the government.
"Great business ideas have been held back by the challenges of a rural location for far too long," said Defra secretary Caroline Spelman on Thursday (22 March).
Five new Rural Growth Networks across England will would enable rural businesses to reach their potential by breaking down barriers to economic growth, such as a shortage of work premises, slow internet connection and fragmented business networks.
"Rural Growth Networks will fix problems like a shortage of work premises and limited internet access to give rural entrepreneurs the chance to get their business ideas off the ground and achieve their full potential.
"Our £15 million investment will create thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses, boosting the rural economy and supporting thriving local communities. Altogether we're spending £165 million to support economic growth in rural England, and shows once again that we are firmly on the side of rural communities."
Five public and private sector partnerships have been selected to each deliver a regional Rural Growth Network. The five pilots will be run over three years in Swindon and Wiltshire; Durham and Northumberland; Devon and Somerset; Cumbria and Coventry and Warwickshire.
Information on each new Rural Growth Network can be found here (pdf).
As well as seeking to transform business prospects, each network will be a pilot to help the government examine ways of increasing the economic potential of rural areas across the country.
Up to £2 million of the Government's investment in Rural Growth Networks will target rural enterprises led by women.
Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said: "Women have a vital role to play and we want to encourage them to fully contribute their skills and talents to the economic recovery."
Establishing or growing a rural business presented particular challenges which this £2 million would help overcome.
"Women are about half as likely as men to be engaged in entrepreneurial activity. We want to inspire and help women achieve their potential, which is vital to generating long term sustainable growth."
The five Rural Growth Networks were selected based on their potential to grow the local economy by creating jobs and providing new business opportunities. They are part of a £165 million government package to stimulate economic growth in rural businesses and communities.
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