Investment and employment looks set to rise over the next 12 months, with the recovery of the rural economy appearing to take firm root in Norfolk and across the eastern region.
Both farming and non-agricultural businesses are expected to increase investment over the remainder of this year and into 2015, according to data from the CLA’s latest Rural Economy Index survey, which is produced in conjunction with rural surveyors Smiths Gore.
It offers great encouragement with its findings that investment is expected to rise in both the farming sector and non-farming businesses.
This is vital if the rural economy is to continue to grow and fully recover from some extremely difficult recent years.
Optimism amongst agricultural businesses is up six percent reaching a net balance of 42 percent, the highest since the survey started in 2012. This has resulted in more farming businesses expecting to invest further in their businesses – a net balance of 36 percent, up from six percent.
Non-agricultural rural businesses have also become more positive about business investments, with a net balance of 46 percent expecting higher investment in the next 12 months – again the highest level recorded by the REI.
Almost 40 percent of the non-agricultural rural businesses surveyed reported higher sales over the past six months and 58 percent expect sales growth next year, which is fantastic news.
The knock-on is that employment in the countryside is set to rise, with farming businesses expecting to take on more staff in the next 12 months – echoed by the responses from non-agricultural businesses.
However, the general election next year will have a major bearing on whether confidence remains high and how fast the rural economy can be driven forward.
The CLA will be lobbying for a government that can deliver a proactive approach to the countryside and one that recognises the importance of rural-based businesses and their potential for creating jobs and prosperity.
We need Norfolk’s rural communities and businesses to be protected from the increase in extreme weather events – the tidal surge and subsequent floods of December 2013 remain a painful memory. We need continued investment to maintain flood defences as well as an understanding of the importance of dredging our rivers.
And if rural businesses are to compete with their urban counterparts, the next government needs to create a universal service obligation of at least 10Mbps so they don’t just have access to broadband, they receive good quality broadband.