The rural parts of the North East LEP area play a very important role in the local economy, accounting for a significant share of total employment, providing above average levels of new business starts, and contributing disproportionately to the region’s visitor economy. They also offer future growth opportunities through key rural sectors (including knowledge intensive business services, tourism, food and drink, energy, and environmental services), and the economic potential of rural towns.
The North East Rural Growth Network (NERGN) pilot project began in 2012 with £3.2m of funding for the North East from Defra. The NERGN covers the rural areas of Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead. Over a period of three years to March 2015 it has tested ways of overcoming barriers to economic growth within these 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 LEP has approved a further £6m to 2020 from the Local Growth Fund to enable the NERGN to continue to support businesses within rural areas.