MORE than 200 jobs are expected to be created and 450 businesses supported in south-east Wiltshire’s military towns following a £1.9m Government investment in the county’s rural economy, Defra Minister Richard Benyon announced at his Rural Roadshow on Wednesday.
Wiltshire is one of only five areas selected for a Rural Growth Network grant to help rural areas overcome the barriers to economic growth, such as shortage of business opportunities and poor broadband access.
The minister, who served in the military and was based with the Greenjackets in Tidworth ’s Assaye Barracks, said: “We were looking for the bid that was going to create as many jobs in rural communities as possible – this one leapt out of the page.”
The money would help service leavers build businesses using the skills they gained in uniform, grow them and employ local people.
This Rural Growth Network is unique among the pilot projects for its military focus – boosting the job prospects of the partners of servicemen and women based in the garrison towns of Ludgershall , Tidworth, Amesbury, Bulford and Durrington.
Richard Benyon said: “This project will tackle barriers to economic growth, giving spouses of serving military personnel and those leaving the forces more job opportunities and the support and workspace they need to set up their own businesses.”
Defra Rural Roadshows allow ministers to hear firsthand about rural issues from communities and businesses.
Newbury MP Mr Benyon spoke when visiting the Castledown Business Centre in Ludgershall, which will be transformed by the new Rural Growth Network into 40 new work premises where entrepreneurs will have space to start companies, and jobs will be created as local businesses get the support they need.
Some of the money allocated will help fund the incubation centre.
To find out more about the benefits that better training opportunities in rural areas can bring to job prospects and the wider community, Mr Benyon also met students at the Wellington Academy Applied Learning Centre in Tidworth.
Defra invested £93,750 in this centre to provide vocational learning for young people planning technical careers.