NEW European help is on offer for the Staffordshire Moorlands' rural economy.
Staffordshire is looking to secure upwards of £1.5 million in investment over the next five years from a European programme called LEADER.
Small businesses and communities with enterprising ideas are being asked to take part in a survey to help form the strategy and business plan for the county programme.
The previous Staffordshire LEADER project – Communities Mean Business – led to more than £2 million investment in 40 social and community projects across the rural Staffordshire Moorlands and parts of Stafford Borough by the time it finished in December 2013.
The new funding pot should be available in January 2015 and will focus on six priorities set by DEFRA – support for micro and small enterprises; rural tourism; culture and heritage; provision of rural services; farm diversification and increasing farming productivity; and increasing forestry productivity.
To secure the funding, the local partnership has to get approval from DEFRA on a detailed strategy and business plan.
Working with Staffordshire County Council, the Leek-based Support Staffordshire (Staffordshire Moorlands) is holding a series of roadshows across the county for people to drop into.
This is an opportunity to find out more about LEADER and to share thoughts and ideas on what the rural economy needs.
The next roadshow is taking place today, June 2, between 7pm and 9pm at The Manor Hotel, Cheadle ST10 1NZ (see www.themanorcheadle.co.uk ), and is being held jointly with the Peak District LEADER team.
More information can be found on www.staffsleader.org.uk where a survey can be completed online, and where there is also an opportunity to submit project ideas and provide contact details to get involved and or to be kept informed of future developments.
Staffordshire County Council lead officer Ian Jackson said: "We are really keen to hear from the very small rural businesses around Staffordshire so that we can find out about their business needs and also the opportunities they can identify.
"We want to involve as many people as possible even though we have a very tight timetable in which to produce the new strategy. People can use the website to get involved or turn up at one of the roadshows.
"This is a real chance to influence how funding can be spent to support jobs and growth in the Staffordshire rural economy."
For more information about Support Staffordshire call into the Staffordshire Moorlands branch directly at 9 High Street, Leek, or call 01538 398240 and follow @supportstaffs and @suppstaffsmoor for the latest updates.