£60 million worth of Rural Economy Grants have been released by the UK Government in response to the findings of DEFRA’s Rural Economy Growth Review. The grants offer rural-based enterprises of many kinds the opportunity for financial assistance in a project or development within their business.
DEFRA have identified grants of £25,000 up to £1 million needed in key business sectors to help unlock significant rural economic growth potential. Projects likely to yield the most success will be the likely winners when funds are awarded, as bids are competitive, and not simply judged on merit.
Whether investing in training, business expansion or development of infrastructure there is one side of the business that is often left neglected; Marketing and Communications. Barbara Huddart, who specialises in marketing rural enterprise, is only too familiar with what happens to business projects that have invested in product but have only a vague idea of haw to bring it to the marketplace.
“When it comes to making a project competitive, and showing you will win orders and business,” says Barbara, whose company Glendale PR has been helping business growth for over 17 years, “you must have a viable marketing strategy. This is what gives you the edge against your competitors – whether in sales, or bidding for a Rural Economy Grant.”
She adds: “Marketing and communicating your business is an integral part of harnessing your growing enterprise’s potential. No matter how small or large, you need to make yourself known, development of brand awareness, a structured marketing plan and communication to your target audience are at the crux of any successful business.”
Priority for the grant will be given to farm competitiveness, tourism, forestry, agrifood and micro enterprise support. Northumberland is becoming renowned for thriving in these areas.
An extensive array of business people have the opportunity to apply for these grants. Farmers, Rural Based Economies, Forestry Contractors, Woodland Owners, Horticultural Businesses, Rural Growth Networks, Not for Profit and Companies Limited by Guarantee and lastly LEPs or local authorities.
With her extensive experience in the marketing and communications of rural enterprises, Barbara Huddart emphasizes the opportunities these grants offer new and already established businesses. “But if you are interested, and have only an outline of what you want to do, you must move swiftly to make a case with people at the RDPE [Rural Development Programme for England]. The deadline for Round One submissions is 30th April – about 6 weeks.”
She recommends anyone who wants to investigate the potential for their business to get in touch with her. “Although we specialise in pr and marketing issues, we know what works in a business. Nobody should go ahead with an application without considering the key issues – or at this stage, getting help to ensure their case is really competitive. The cost of effective business advice can be included in the project itself.”