Industry leader says investment and innovation must continue to help rural businesses deal with today’s challenges
Improved internet and transport links are crucial to the success of 500,000 rural companies according to one of Yorkshire’s established business managers.
Janet Kettlewell, operations manager for Kettlewell Fuels, believes a strong rural business community is fundamental to the success of the country as a whole.
“Rural industry is a vitally important part of our overall economy, in terms of the communities it supports and the jobs it creates but also the broader contribution it makes to the environment, wildlife and national heritage here in Yorkshire,” she said.
“Unique in character, rural industry is at the heart of our local communities and its continued success should be important to all of us.”
There are more than 500,000 rural businesses in England – accounting for almost a quarter of companies in the country.
Government statistics for 2015/16 showed rural businesses employed 3.5million people and there were more registered businesses per head in predominantly rural areas than predominantly urban areas, excluding London.
But today’s rural businesses are facing many challenges – from changing weather conditions to the potential influx of larger multinationals.
Janet Kettlewell accepts Brexit will ‘without doubt present both opportunities and questions’ for the local industry, and the full impact wouldn’t be known until the conclusion of the government’s negotiations.
She also believes rural businesses face a number of issues consistent with many of the country’s national businesses.
“Finding great people to come and work for you is a challenge for any organisation and rural industry is no different to any other sector needing to find reliable and enthusiastic workers,” she said.
“Developing interesting and engaging work opportunities is important to attract and retain the younger generation.
“Global warming and changing weather patterns continue to dominate the national and local news agendas. With the milder and wetter winters we’re now having, it’s another example of where rural industry has to evolve and adapt to the changing weather.”
Janet also believes the continued development of communication facilities and, most importantly, broadband speeds are essential for the local economy.
“As communities grow outside of the towns and cities, the size and scalability of businesses will also present challenges.
“The potential influx of larger multinationals into the local market will test our established business relations. In some situations, smaller businesses are being forced to consider mergers as a means of survival.”
So what can be done to help rural businesses not just survive but succeed?
“Rural businesses face a unique set of circumstances and as such need the right conditions to enable them to grow, as well as plan and prepare for the future with confidence.
“Funding for innovation and IT infrastructures needs to continue. Similarly, planning systems for rural needs, opening up new roads and train links, as well as support for local housing initiatives are important if the rural economy is to remain confident and certain of the future.”
Whatever form support for rural businesses comes in, Janet believes they are ‘vitally important’ to communities – providing training and employment and keeping villages viable.
“Successful local businesses can also often provide the financial backbone and support for local causes and charities,” she said.
“As a local business, the team at Kettlewell Fuels are passionate about supporting our own local communities and getting involved with many rural activities and events.
“For us, living and supporting a sustainable community with local services for local people has to be the most critical role we can play.”
Kettlewell Fuels supports a number of regional events and charities, including the work of Martin House providing family-led care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions and sponsoring North Yorkshire’s women’s and girls’ cricket teams.
The company is also a sponsor for the Yorkshire Post’s Rural Awards.
“Supporting and sponsoring events like the Yorkshire Post Rural Awards is important to us and also ensures that as a region, we are able to celebrate the vital role that the rural and agricultural community plays,” said Janet.
“This year, we’ve chosen to sponsor the Vet of the Year category – which recognises the achievements of our region’s veterinary stars.”
Kettlewell Fuels is proud to have worked alongside North Yorkshire’s rural and agricultural communities for 30 years.
“We understand what it means to live in a rural environment and the challenges our customers face,” said Janet.
“Our support for our rural industry means we provide outstanding service, swift delivery and exemplary personal customer support so the local organisations can get on with running their businesses, developing local skills and jobs and supporting the economy.”
For more information visit www.kettlewellfuels.co.uk