Business Link in the West Midlands has unveiled a new package of support to help land-based companies, including a dedicated information website and a team of industry specialists.
The move, which is being supported by a host of key partners like the Rural Hubs, Natural England and local authorities, is designed to provide firms with the expertise and knowledge they need to make the most of a changing industry and more immediate concerns, such as flooding, the credit crunch and climate change.
Business Link’s Mark Davies said: “When people refer to land based businesses, many quote farmers as being the main audience, but the reality is somewhat different.
“The sector is diverse in its nature and covers anything from prime producers to floristry and agricultural engineering and fencing.
“From talking to these businesses we know the challenges they face and the opportunities they have are different to your ‘everyday’ company and this support boost will ensure we are doing everything we can to help the sector flourish.”
Advisers on the team include Chris Higgins, Bill Johnson, Joe Pell, Terry Draycott and Stuart Brown. They have been charged with delivering one-to-one advice and business mentoring to companies.
Chris Higgins is a farmer with an academic career in agriculture and business management spanning more than 20 years, while Bill Johnson has over 30 years experience of advising farmers, land owners and other rural businesses from across the UK.
Based near Malvern, Stuart Brown has been working with land based companies in the area for 15 years. Joe Pell has a history of combining practical farming experience with over 10 years of consultancy work in diversification projects and general business support advice.
They will use their extensive experience to play a crucial role in signposting businesses to funding opportunities and in introducing firms to the National Farmers Union-backed Business Link supply database, which features many industry specialists.
In addition to the intensive support, there are also a host of factsheets on new legislation available and a new micro-site (www.rurallink.co.uk) aimed purely at land based companies will be launched shortly.
Mr Draycott, who has 40 years experience in the sector, said: “People in land based companies want to speak to advisers who have been in the same situation and understand the pressures they are facing in terms of rising energy costs, seasonal employment and the UK weather, which is causing havoc with flooding and harvesting.
“We can build an empathy with the client and then advise them on all issues, from cash flow forecasts, business planning and sales support to diversification projects, strategic development and environmental management.”
“I suppose the message to get across is that Business Link is here to help. We understand the industry and we are out, on the ground, working with companies to help them improve,” he added.
Land-based businesses are just one of Business Link’s priority sectors. It also supports the region’s manufacturing, construction, creative and professional services.