Rutland's small businesses 'help area adapt'

The flexibility and size of firms in Rutland help them adapt to economic change, a local political leader said.

Rutland County Council deputy leader Terry King said the area had so far handled the downturn quite well.

Both Rutland and nearby market town of Harborough in Leicestershire were both rated highly for business resilience in BBC-commissioned research by Experian.

This is partly due to high levels of self-employment and a well-educated population.

Councillor John Everett, of Market Harborough council, said the area's resilience was partly due to the high level of co-operation between businesses and councils.

He said the council was one of the few in England to have a portfolio member in cabinet solely responsible to promote local business.

Although Market Harborough is "very middle-class and very rural" it is also located in a prime position near national road and rail networks, he said.

Its convenient location has helped attract a major car auction firm to locate on a little-known aerodrome at Bruntingthorpe - where it can store up to 30,000 vehicles.

Mr King, who also runs a flat-pack furniture firm, said farmers in Rutland had been able to withstand the recession and downturn by diversifying into other areas such as farm shops and caravan parks.

He said: "During the recession, when the county council attempted to ask local businesses what they needed, most of them needed advice about growth and not handling the downturn."

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He said "small is beautiful" in some cases as people in a county like Rutland - the smallest in England in terms of size - felt they could make a difference.

There are some challenges for the local political leaders to tackle, as even high-earning university graduates from the area find it difficult to buy a house, he said.

The average price of properties is very high so new graduates often have to move out of the area to afford a house.

Rutland has a low rate of welfare claimants and a low crime rate, according to the Experian research, while Market Harborough has a high education rate.

BBC Radio Leicester will have a debate on the results of the research at 0900 BST on 10 September.

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