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BUSINESS YET TO WAKE UP TO THE PROSPECT OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES SAYS NEW RESEARCH

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Businesses are generally unaware and as yet not ready to take advantage of the launch of the Regional Development A...
Businesses are generally unaware and as yet not ready to take advantage of the launch of the Regional Development Agencies (RDA's) on 1 April, according to research from Barclays.

Only 49% of businesses surveyed realise that the RDA's are being launched, with the majority (51%) unaware of their establishment.

Even when informed of their impending launch, 45% could not identify what they thought the priorities of the RDA's should be. Twelve per cent thought the RDA's should concentrate on economic development and regeneration, with 8% thinking they should provide grants and funding for business.

The RDA's will actually be responsible for: economic development and regeneration; the promotion of business efficiency; skills and training; finance for small- and medium-sized enterprises and the provision of 'micro-finance' for start-ups (the provision of relatively small amounts of debt or capital); and inward investment.

Jo Hatton, Barclays Corporate Services head of business development, said: 'The profile of the RDA's has been relatively low key up until now but we are expecting them to become important regional economic players quite quickly. Eventually the RDA's will be responsible for some very significant budgets so their huge.

'Barclays is keen to support the RDA's, and as well as winning the banking business for five of the eight English RDA's that come into existence on April 1, 1999, we have appointed senior managers in each RDA region to act as a liaison between Barclays and their local RDA. We have also seconded a number of key personnel into a number of agencies, and are working with the new RDA's to become a key backer of future finance schemes aimed at SME's.'

The RDA's will bring together the old English Partnerships, Regional Development Organisations, the Rural Development Commission and some government offices all under one roof with their own executive. It has been suggested that business support organisations such as Business Links and Training and Enterprise Councils will also be brought together under this umbrella.

Notes:

The survey questioned 603 finance directors of companies with a turnover of between£1m and£100m. The research was carried out by Continental Research in December 1998.

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