Our highly successful INSPIRE Leicestershire programme - Investment Support in the Rural Economy - operated from November 2009 until March 2012. In total, the programme supported over 240 businesses, created/safeguarded 68 jobs, levered £540k of private sector investment and provided an additional 7,500 m2 of employment/housing floorspace.

The project had three broad strands that combined to make a comprehensive rural economic programme, with funding from East Midlands Development Agency alongside Leicestershire County Council investment.

  • Town and Centres Business Partnership Development

This programme aimed, through a benchmarking toolkit among other things, to develop and support existing businesses and improve public satisfaction in town centres as places to shop, visit and do business. All towns who took part used the information to help in a variety of ways - for example by running trade shows, events and producing promotional material; offering retail advice and training and negotiating to reduce rents.

The programmes legacy is that nearly all of those towns who participated, are now intending fund the benchmarking themselves, with the original target of 90 businesses assisted more than exceeded.

  • Business Growth and Sustainable Communities

The aim of this element of the programme was to enable the Leicestershire Rural Partnership to deliver projects, events and workshops to help overcome barriers to growth and give support to topical issues as they arose.

Recognising the importance of e-commerce and e-marketing to small and medium enterprises competing in today's markets, over 130 businesses were supported through ICT workshops to improve competitiveness and increase their profile on the web.

Local businesses have identified planning processes as a barrier to rural economic growth. In response, a Rural Economic Planning Toolkit has been developed which supports applicants and assessors reach common ground on the economic benefits and overall suitability of business planning applications in rural areas.

  • Infrastructure Investment Grants

The aim of this programme was to provide investment support to encourage businesses invest in and enhance the offer of rural retail, tourism and workspace provision to help stimulate local economic growth, increase job security, create new employment opportunities and improve the general condition of Leicestershire's rural economy.