Windfarm windfall boosts businesses

Published Tuesday, 29th October 2019 in Research news

SRUC research shows impact of small grants on rural firms
E-bikes in Perthshire. Picture: Progression Bikes

A company that rents electric bikes was among a number of Scottish rural businesses to benefit from a windfarm windfall.

On behalf of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), researchers at Scotland’s Rural College surveyed more than 30 businesses which had successfully applied for grants of up to £20,000 from two windfarm developments in Perthshire.

In almost all cases, they found that a relatively small amount of money can go a long way in terms of boosting local economies. As a result, they have recommended that other energy providers consider providing grants to businesses as well as – or even instead of – directly to communities.

The evaluation of the £250,000 distributed through the SSE Griffin and Calliachar Enterprise Fund also found that, thanks to their grants, many recipients had been able to speed up the launch or growth of their business.

Adam Flint, owner of Progression Bikes in Dunkeld, applied for the maximum grant amount of £20,000 to support five different projects: e-bikes, staff development, coaching for adults, race team support and mountain trike development.

He said: “All of these have grown since the application was submitted, but electric bikes have really taken off. There are great for so many reasons including access for those with an injury, fitness or mobility issues, long distance riding, towing kids’ trailers, conquering steeper climbs and riding more trails in a day.

“The grant has allowed us to expand our fleet to include bikes for all sizes, and for all types of riding. We hope that it gives people the opportunity to experience and discover parts of the countryside that would otherwise have gone by unexplored.”

Gareth Shields from SSE’s Community Investment Team said: “The initial results from SRUC’s research are very encouraging. When SSE and the local communities discussed the concept of a fund for small businesses, it was important to us all that it provide the ability for these businesses to improve their offering in the medium to long-term. We will therefore be keen to see the effects the fund has had in the coming two to three years, and hope that businesses like Progression Bikes continue to see benefits from their award.”

Dr Jane Atterton, who led the research, said: “This evaluation has demonstrated how far even £1,000 to £2,000 can go in terms of boosting a business owner’s confidence and bringing wider community benefits, such as providing training for a young person or encouraging more local business networking.

“Our evaluation makes a number of recommendations for future similar schemes, including the value of keeping a scheme locally-designed and locally-administered, being flexible which encourages a range of businesses to apply, having a simple but thorough application process, and incorporating ongoing business support, in this case, provided by GrowBiz.”

Read the report.

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