Following the establishment of seven Enterprise Zones across Wales, a Task and Finish Group chaired by Justin Baird-Murray, owner and Managing Director of the Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells, examined specific issues affecting the key market towns of Brecon, Llandrindod and Newtown and made recommendation specifically designed to support jobs and economic growth in small towns and rural communities as an alternative to Enterprise Zones.
In a statement to update AMs following the publication of the report, Mrs Hart said Welsh Government was all set to work with partners on a range of projects recommended to make a real economic impact on communities across Powys.
The Minister, who was on business visits in the Llandrindod and Newtown areas yesterday, said:
"I am pleased to report that a great deal of progress has now been made. My officials will be working with a range of partners over the coming weeks to progress these projects, which will make a real impact on communities across Powys."
Highlights the Minister announced include:
- A pilot, business-led initiative in Llandrindod Wells, supported by the Welsh Government, to develop an action plan to address the economic sustainability of the town with the potential to develop a Business Improvement District in the town.
- Establishing the Sirolli model of community based economic development in and around Newtown to support new business start-ups by nurturing local people through mentoring and enterprise facilitation.
- Developing a local website network in Brecon to boost the town centre economy by increasing trade for local businesses and secure jobs in those businesses.
- Prioritising Powys Local Growth Zone after Enterprise Zones in the roll out of the £425m Next Generation Broadband Wales project.
The Minister said:
"I am committed to taking forward the Llandrindod project immediately, testing its suitability for rolling out to Newtown, Brecon and other places as appropriate.
"The pilot project is vitally important, as it will give us a valuable insight into what we can achieve in our rural market towns.
"Meanwhile, in Newtown, I am pleased to confirm that discussions are taking place between my officials and the Sirolli Institute to establish a model of community based economic development in and around the town. It builds on work currently underway in Blaenau Gwent
"In Brecon I am delighted to announce that we will be supporting the development of a local website network, intended to enhance the town centre economy.
"The town-scale digital network will enable local traders to communicate and interact with their customers and offer initiatives such as couponed special offers and shared delivery services.
"It will also enable communities and individual businesses to promote and market themselves to the world outside that community.
"This exciting new technology approach is an important contribution to the work of the Welsh Government in supporting our town centres."
The report identified the need for high speed broadband and the Minister said she would like to see the Powys Local Growth Zone given priority in the roll out, following Enterprise Zones.
She said officials will factor this new priority into the detailed planning process and will be working with BT to provide fibre broadband to these areas as soon as possible.
The Minister said she will be reviewing the effectiveness of business rate schemes in the Enterprise Zones after 12 months, and will then decide whether to introduce e a similar targeted scheme in Powys Local Growth Zones.