Business support services sought for RGN

Organisations throughout Devon and Somerset are being invited to tender to provide a range of rural business support services.

The Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has launched a procurement process, which will use funds from the Rural Growth Network (RGN) pilot initiative.

Just under £1m is being invested into the business support programme across Devon and Somerset.  Funding comes from the Defra sponsored RGN programme as well as Devon County Council , which is providing support for innovation in rural businesses. Further investment comes from the Department of Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund to provide support to users of the growing network of Devon work hubs.

In addition, Somerset County Council is providing funding to continue the creation of a network of enterprise centres that offer business accommodation and facilities.

The aim is to create a strong programme of support throughout the HotSW area, which will stimulate business innovation, including business advice, supporting women entrepreneurs and providing vouchers for a range of additional services. This will all help to boost the local economy and increase jobs.

Now that the tender has been issued, companies throughout the area will bid to win a contract to provide the business support services.

The invitation to tender follows the announcement earlier this year of how £2m of the RGN money will be distributed to projects throughout the two counties.

The overall £2.9m RGN investment is expected to boost the rural economy by £40m by providing the opportunities and infrastructure that rural businesses need to grow.

HotSW is one of just five LEPs selected to deliver a pilot Rural Growth Network, spearheading a national drive to encourage economic growth and enterprise in rural areas.

Tim Jones, Chair of HotSW said: “These remaining funds will make a massive difference to the local economy, providing rural businesses with a range of dedicated services that they can easily access.

“It is crucial that we create a sustainable rural economy by providing dedicated, tailored business support – I would like to encourage organisations to bid, so they can play a key role in enhancing rural businesses.

“This procurement process will enable us to identify suppliers who are interested in providing these services and will also ensure we secure the best deal possible for businesses throughout the Heart of the South West area.”

Devon County Council Leader John Hart said: “Rural businesses will benefit directly  from the range of services that this will provide.  Our rural businesses comprise a vital part of Devon’s local economy.

“That’s why Devon County Council is boosting the overall cash available by another £300,000 so we can increase the number of businesses we support.

“The County Council is also opening a series of work hubs across Devon where businesses can hire rooms and equipment as they need them. I opened a work hub in Tavistock recently and we’re opening another work hub in Okehampton after Easter. They follow on from the work hubs we’ve already opened in Cullompton and Totnes.”

Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, Councillor David Hall said: “Rural businesses are hugely important to the future of Somerset and Devon’s economy. This £2.9m investment will support existing rural businesses and encourage more to move to the area.

“In Somerset we are creating more Enterprise Centres to provide accommodation to small businesses and flexible work hubs to help new businesses get started and grow.”

£2.9m fund was awarded to the Local Enterprise Partnership working in conjunction with Devon and Somerset County Councils.  The Rural Growth Network initiative will run until 2015.

It is expected that the tender process will be completed and a contractor appointed in late spring.

To download the documents and read more about the invitation to tender, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/cw2zajq – interested applicants will need to register to express their interest.