Over many decades, rural economies and their diverse sources of enterprise have been overlooked within mainstream policies – whether it be debates about national productivity, industrial strategy, society’s response to long term grand challenges or the ‘levelling up’ agenda.
Either treated too narrowly, so associated only with sectors like agriculture, tourism and traditional industries or eclipsed by approaches seen through the lens of cities as the presumed locus for growth, innovation and regional development, rural enterprise has been underexplored and underutilised.
Drawing rural economies comprehensively into the nation’s plans for recovery and strengthening economic performance is important for several reasons:
Rural economies are, therefore, part of the levelling-up challenge and also part of the solution. This means capitalising on the performance, innovation and untapped potential of rural enterprise, whilst also addressing longstanding barriers. A preponderance of highly dispersed sole traders and micro-businesses presents particular difficulties for coping with regulations/red tape, business collaboration and networking, access to skilled labour, services and finance, and in more remote areas, ‘new to the market’ innovation. COVID-19 has demonstrated how digital connectivity and competencies matter more than ever. Yet many SMEs with goods and services suitable for sale via the Internet and social media don’t have the setup or knowhow to fully exploit this potential. Weaknesses in some rural areas in affordable housing, transport infrastructures and education plus services provision also hold back businesses and require integrated, place-based solutions.
The full article which features further information can be accessed here
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