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We would like to get involved in helping new businesses start up in deprived areas. Any ideas on how to go about it...
We would like to get involved in helping new businesses start up in deprived areas. Any ideas on how to go about it?

Rob Whiteman,

Chief executive, Barking & Dagenham LBC

Deprived areas often lack big retail and office presence, but this is no impediment to promoting new businesses - indeed, the local population might be highly entrepreneurial.

Looking at it from the other end of the spectrum, regeneration is a way to attract larger businesses if the conditions are right.

The first tip is to know your patch - what's on offer and who is eligible? Deprived areas can be narrowly defined in terms of geography, so know which areas are eligible for which funding streams. There might be restrictions on the type of business you can help under particular streams.

Second, understand the bigger picture. Local business services need to support the region's strategic priorities - if you can't demonstrate that your service will do this, you will be unable to access funding from the key agencies.

Third, make sure your service is relevant and delivers what is needed. The most useful business support functions have moved away from standardised training - such as book-keeping - towards market-specific help, say, with good mentors in the early stages.

Finally, find out about key funding opportunities, for example specific national funds that encourage enterprise in groups that are under-represented in business ownership.

Bob Coomber

Chief executive, Southwark LBC

Be clear about your potential role. Councils have little direct activity when supporting businesses, as Southwark LBC realised when developing an enterprise strategy with the local strategic partnership. Councils act to focus the work and co-ordinate others.

Businesses thrive on confidence. Demonstrate that your community strategy and neighbourhood plans support the key growth sectors. Engage existing businesses in those plans to reflect the needs of business. Stimulate business networks, as Southwark has done with groups such as the Black Business Initiative, to improve connections to particular communities and sectors.

Understand the real barriers to start-up. In London, for example, it is cheap property. Southwark is working to promote 'affordable businesses', which will also address the long-term problems of maintaining a diverse economic base as success pushes property prices up.

Other areas may help economic demand. For example, look at the ideas for retail investment in Business in the Community's 'underserved markets' initiative.

Do the basics well - planning, licensing and environmental regulation. Make sure the pressures for better procurement are balanced by development of local suppliers.

Engage the mainstream sources of business support, such as Business Link, but consider funding something more tailored to the needs of the locality.

Don't forget to help businesses sustain their activity, as well as simply start up.

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