Over 30 rural businesses in Staffordshire have expanded their operations thanks to a county council-managed growth funding programme.
The Staffordshire LEADER programme has over £1million in funding until 2020 to support rural business growth.
It aims to support projects which will create jobs or help rural businesses grow; with grants available to support farm productivity, micro and small enterprise, farm diversification, tourism, rural services, heritage and forestry schemes.
Over £900,000 has been committed to date, supporting 34 businesses and creating 55 jobs.
Approved schemes have included a new equestrian centre, a fledgling company producing cured meats, a restaurant’s fine dining kitchen, a new machine to process feed and bedding into products for the equestrian and pet industry and a conversion of farmyard buildings to create four-star self-catering accommodation.
The funding is administered by the county council from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
An additional 30 bids are now being progressed. Grants of between £2,500 and £100,000 have been available to businesses with ambitious plans to stimulate the rural economy.
Mary Grice Soft Furnishings, based in Harlaston near Lichfield, was able to build a new workshop after receiving a LEADER grant of just over £15,000. The purpose built facility has enabled the company to increase its workload, stock more goods and create three jobs.
Mary said the funding also helped the business to gain higher end clients, take on more complex projects, improved its status within the industry and also boosted confidence.
In the first instance, the LEADER application process forced me to properly asses my business direction and quantify the growth. Many small business owners have growth plans but often don’t have the opportunity or motivation to quantify these and put them into place.
The other encouraging thing about the application process itself was that getting through each stage and then finally being awarded the grant. This had a very positive effect on my own perception of my business and the direction I wanted to take it in. I knew that the programme team believed in me sufficiently to hand over a considerable sum of money.
As a sole trader you often don’t have anyone to support you or believe in you, so being awarded a grant made me feel that I must be doing it right.
After the grant was awarded I was immediately able to start building the new workroom and I moved in just a few months later. My business, home and family had been at breaking point so it was fantastic to have all this physical space to move into and to have the business separated from the home.”
In the Staffordshire Moorlands, The Stafford Arms, Bagnall, extended its restaurant area, resulting in the creation of six jobs thanks to a £41,000 grant. The additional space enables the business to work more efficiently and to stock goods more effectively.
Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said:
Almost half of the LEADER programme funding has now been allocated and enabled rural businesses to expand and create 40 jobs. The programme team is currently processing a further 30 applications which means more business growth and job creation.
LEADER has made a real difference to small businesses which play a vital part in rural communities and our ongoing economic growth. We now want to make sure the remaining money is fully utilised. People can find out more by visiting the programme website or contacting a member of the team.”
People can find out more about the programme at: www.staffsleader.org.uk