Rural businesses and enterprises are a vital part of the North East economy and we know that they can also face barriers to growth which are specific to their rural location, such as poor infrastructure, scarcity of business premises and lack of business networks.
Between 2012 and 2015 £15 million was allocated nationally, from DEFRA, to support Rural Growth Networks to deliver proposals aimed at helping rural areas overcome these barriers.
During this pilot period, the North East Rural Growth Network used its £3.2 million funding allocation to help around 200 new businesses to establish themselves within rural areas; assist more than 1,000 businesses with either financial support or business advice; and create more than 100 new enterprise spaces at 13 business hub sites across the rural North East.
We allocated a further £6m Local Growth Funding from the North East LEP and central Government over the five year period to 2020, allowing continued support to projects in rural areas of Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead.
The range of rural enterprises we’ve already supported is vast, from the £14.2 million development of The Sill, Northumberland’s National Landscape Discovery Centre, through to Knitsley Farm Shop and Granary Café in County Durham, which is creating new jobs and supporting other rural businesses through the extension of its premises and services.
We’d now like to invite applications from projects seeking support from either of the North East Rural Growth Network’s two funds: the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF) and the Rural Business Growth Fund (RBGF).
The SEIF offers grants of up to 40% of eligible costs to support business infrastructure projects such as the creation of enterprise hubs, large-scale tourism infrastructure projects, the development of new or refurbished business accommodation, and work which will unlock investment sites for commercial, industrial or retail use.
Grants of £10,000 to £60,000 will be available from the RBGF to support small business capital investment projects which will result in diversification, increased production and business growth.
The North East Rural Growth Network is here to help create more and better jobs in our rural economy so if you have a project which might be eligible for support, visit www.archnorthumberland.co.uk to find out more.
Gillian Hall, North East LEP Board Member