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    Posted 1 April 2002

    VISITING HARPER Adams last month, Wrekin MP Peter Bradley heard about the work of the University College in its role as the Rural Business School (RBS).

    Harper Adams, near Newport in Shropshire, is the UK's largest specialist institution of Higher Education for the land and food-based industries. Its identification as the Rural Business School, called for by a Cabinet Office report last year, is based upon the University College's experience and success in pioneering successful business support.

    Three years ago, the Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) initiative was launched at Harper Adams in a bid to help new entrepreneurs in rural areas, the majority of whom research has shown to be female, to set up and run their own businesses.

    Since then, WiRE has gone from strength to strength with an annual conference that regularly attracts around 300 delegates, a nationwide membership network and special deals for members that currently include a preferential business loan rate from HSBC.

    During his visit, Mr Bradley met Steve Parsons, Chair of the RBS, and heard how the WiRE initiative would be used as a model for the setting up of at least another three Business Clubs.

    The Convalescent and Recuperative Environment (CaRE) project will look at the possibility of using farm accommodation for the non-medical care of patients recovering from illness or injury.

    The On-farm Composting project will assist farmers who wish to carry out their own composting or begin composting for commercial gain. The Food Business Club for Small and Medium sized Enterprises in the West Midlands will give its members opportunities for networking and provide services and advice.

    The WiRE, CaRE, On-Farm Composting and Food SME's projects will all come together under the banner of the Rural Business School. A Business Club will be established for each and members will be offered benefits such as business advice, preferential loans, networking, workshops and training courses.

    Speaking after the meeting, Mr Parsons said: "The Rural Business School is here to support rural people who are determined to stay and live and work in the countryside. Harper Adams helps by working with people determined to help themselves. We share with them a wholehearted commitment to the countryside."

    Endorsing the initiative, Mr Bradley said: "This is exactly the right thing at exactly the right time."


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