The Rural Growth Network (RGN) pilot project began in 2012 with £3.2m of funding for the North East from Defra. Over the last three years it has been testing ways of overcoming barriers to economic growth in the North East’s rural areas.
The Programme has been highly successful. It has helped around 200 new businesses to establish themselves within the rural areas, assisted more than 1,000 businesses with either financial support or business advice and created more than 100 new enterprise spaces at 13 business hub sites across the rural North East.
Following on from this success, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has approved a further £6m over the next four years from the Growth Deal Local Growth Fund to enable the RGN to continue to support businesses.
Two new capital funds are on offer – the Rural Business Growth Fund and the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund.
The Rural Business Growth Fund (RBGF) opened on 3rd November and will accept expressions of interest until the 22nd December. Capital investment is available to support rural businesses that have clear plans to expand productivity or diversify into new markets or products. The fund is open to businesses in sectors from food, drink and manufacturing to the energy and environmental industries and can support improvements or expansion of premises and the purchase of capital plant or equipment.
The Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF) will support the creation of enterprise units for multiple business users, site preparation works to unlock economic development sites or significant tourism projects of a strategic nature. Funding has already been committed to six new projects across the area this year and the fund is currently open until the 23rd November to new applications for funding from April 2016 onwards.
Both schemes are available to support up to 40% of the cost of capital developments which can lead to the creation of more and better jobs in the region’s rural economy.
North East LEP board member, Gillian Hall said: “We are committed to ensuring that small to medium sized businesses located outside of our towns and cities have equal access to the finance they need to grow and thrive.
“Rural businesses have a huge part to play in supporting the regional economy and in creating more and better jobs for all. I strongly encourage entrepreneurs and business owners to take advantage of the opportunities that these funds provide.”
One project recently supported by the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund is The Sill in Northumberland which received a £1m investment into the new national landscape discovery centre which will create at least 120 jobs and contribute almost £5m in visitor spending to the North East economy each year.
You can find out more about both grant schemes by contacting the RGN Delivery Team who are based at Arch – The Northumberland Development Company.
For more details about the call for the Rural Business Growth Fund (RBGF), visit http://www.archnorthumberland.co.uk/north-east-rural-growth-network/rural-growth-network-news-events/