Rural Businesses Told To Prepare For £27m Investment Scheme

Entrepreneurs in rural areas are being told to get ready for the new £27 million Rural Business Investment Scheme, which is expected to be open for applications in Spring 2015.

Speaking on the issue, West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer and local Sinn Féin councillor Anne Marie Fitzgerald have called on local entrepreneurs to prepare their business cases now.

“A total of £27 million of the new Rural Development Programme has been earmarked for a Rural Business Investment Scheme aimed at creating and developing non agricultural activities in rural areas,” said Mr McAleer. “This is an excellent opportunity for people who have a business idea or established businesses who want to grow and develop.”

The MLA said Rural Development Minister O’Neill has confirmed that her department is finalising the draft RDP Programme with formal submission to the European Commission expected in October.

“During a recent meeting between the Minister and the EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, she impressed the need to have the programme cleared and turned around as quickly as possible,” he said. Cllr Fitzgerald explained that 89 per-cent of rural businesses are classed in the micro-enterprise category and face additional challenges compared to their u urban counterparts. These range from higher transport costs, poor infrastructure, smaller population centres, planning constraints and sporadic broadband coverage.

“It is really important to note that this is a separate programme from the larger Farm Business Improvement Scheme, which is part of the Growing for Growth strategy.

“The Rural Business Investment Scheme aims to create more SME’s in rural areas and is open to everyone who has a business proposal.

“I strongly advise people who are considering applying to the new scheme to start working on their business cases now and get professional help from organisations such as Invest NI who will help them flesh out their ideas.

“In these bleak economic times, this new programme represents a great opportunity for job creation and regeneration in rural areas,” she stated.