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Helping fledgling firms to put down rural roots.

Byline: By Rebekah Ashby

Would-be entrepreneurs keen to put down roots in a rural area are set to benefit from a new business centre in Barnard Castle.

The i-space, a hi-tech managed enterprise centre, has just opened its doors in the market town, offering 10 units for fledgling firms who do not want to fly the rural nest.

Providing fully furnished office space, complete with computer equipment and broadband access, the i-Space offers even the smallest new business a professional base, with shared reception facilities, meeting and conference rooms as part of the rental package.

The two-storey i-Space has been developed from a redundant industrial workshop within the existing Enterprise House on Harmire Park and features units up to 220sq ft.

Geoff Simpson, chairman of Teesdale Development Company, said: "The research carried out before construction of the centre revealed a high proportion of self-employed people in the area who were building businesses based on knowledge economies such as marketing, management consultancy and specialist advice in areas including tourism and health and safety.

"These entrepreneurs wanted to have a professional base to conduct client meetings and also access to the latest broadband technology in order to download and upload large pieces of information.

"And with the majority enjoying the quality of life offered in the market town, they also wanted to avoid the commute into cities by having a business centre on their doorstep."

And this research has already been borne out, with six of the 10 units in i-Space let to small businesses.

Paul Harper, who lives in Barnard Castle, established his company, Britnett Training Services, three-years-ago and has enjoyed steady growth over that time. Providing website development services to a range of smaller businesses, Britnett now employs seven staff and is expecting to expand further following the move to i-Space.

Mr Harper said: "My business helps firms to update their own websites and become self-sufficient in managing their Internet presence. We also advise customers on how their website can best be found using search engines, which is an essential part of e-marketing, and an area that is a growing part of our business.

"Basing the company in Barnard Castle is not only convenient but it is a real selling point. It allows customers to distinguish us from other city-based operations and gives a more customer-friendly and approachable image of the business, which is a definite advantage and appeals to our clients from Fife down to Portsmouth."

i-Space at Barnard Castle was developed from a model opened in Hexham last year and which has been equally successful, with full occupancy in less than four months. TNL, a Hexham-based IT consultancy, specialising in providing hi-tech assistance to businesses, is the organisation behind the i-Space concept.

Funded by One NorthEast, through the County Durham Economic Partnership, Teesdale District Council, Teesdale Development Company and the European Regional Development Fund, i-Space aims to meet the demand for quality business start-up accommodation in rural areas and stem the migration of talent and skills into urban centres.
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 28, 2003
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