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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Lord Digby Jones opens Cumbria Rural Growth Hub

A hub to help Cumbrian businesses flourish has been opened by television personality and business guru Lord Digby Jones.

Digby Jones photo
Lord Jones, second right, with Sandra Jowett, Rob Johnston and Tim Farron at the opening

The Rural Growth Hub – utilising University of Cumbria buildings in Ambleside – is up and running and will act as a support to nurture small or fledgling businesses.

Lord Jones spoke at the hub’s opening event yesterday before joining a panel that included Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park, and South Lakes MP Tim Farron.

Lord Jones, former CBI director general and star of BBC Two’s The New Troubleshooter, said that much more could be done to help businesses grow and the new growth hub is a good example.

“This is a fantastic example of what can be done to help small businesses, it’s spot on,” Lord Jones said. “We’ve got to get to get the mood music changed; we’ve got to get the current coalition government on the page of understanding, that if you don’t get behind a small business in Cumbria you’re history.

“We’ve had successive governments declare war on rural communities: they see it as elitist, they see it as something that’s at odds with urbanisation and they don’t like it.”

He said three key areas should be targeted to help small and rural businesses.

“If a small business doesn’t export [then] they should be,” Lord Jones insisted, “and if they can’t, [then] they should sell to someone that does.

“Secondly, skills and training; if every small business took on one more apprentice you’d finish youth unemployment in this country.

“Thirdly, important in a rural environment, there should be universal high speed broadband in every single facility.”

The state-of-the-art growth hub, funded with a £199,500 grant from the European Development Fund, features workspace and a 60-seat conference and workshop room.

It also has superfast fibre broadband and a virtual reception, as well as advice from university leadership experts.

Watch the official opening. Article continues below...


David Browne who runs his photography and animation business, DPB Images, from the centre said: “It’s gone very well here in the business hub, I’d like to stay for quite a while.

“It’s important to have a hub here in the Lake District as everyone is very spread out.”

As well as enjoying a tour of the new resource alongside other dignitaries and guests, Lord Jones met business tenants to hear their take on the existing and future benefits of the hub.

The Rural Growth Hub – one of 11 across the county set up as part of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership’s Rural Growth Network pilot – brings to a close phase two of the wider redevelopment of the Ambleside campus. Sandra Jowett, University of Cumbria deputy vice-chancellor added: “We are very committed to working with all businesses, and want them to utilise our business support.

“It is critical for rural businesses.”

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