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Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots MLA has launched the 2021 Rural Business Development Grant Scheme, which will provide grant funding to rural micro businesses to help with their sustainability and development, as well as assisting recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister made his announcement during a visit to ‘All Blinds and Curtains’ in Ballinderry, Lisburn, Co. Antrim. Owners Neil and Suzi Bacon submitted an application to DAERA’s 2020 Rural Business Development Grant Scheme through the Department’s delivery partners Lisburn City and Castlereagh Borough Council for a vertical blind louvre cutting machine.

The Rural Business Development Grant Scheme is delivered in partnership with the 11 rural District Councils, with the focus this year on penetrating and supporting those businesses most in need and those that have not benefitted from the Scheme in the past two years.

Welcoming the launch of this year’s scheme, Minister Poots said: “I am delighted to visit Neil and Suzi’s business ‘All Blinds and Curtains’ today to hear first-hand how a small investment of £3,250 has benefitted their rural micro business. The purchase of a cutting machine has enabled the business to move from manual cutting and be more competitive with regards to pricing for prospective trade suppliers, thus considerably developing the business.

Covid-19 has hit Northern Ireland’s business community hard and micro business owners, particularly in rural areas, have been impacted by a downturn in trade. The benefits of this Scheme are two-fold in that the grant aid helps the rural businesses to develop and grow, but also in the majority of cases the items purchased are secured locally and hence this is a further boost for the Northern Ireland economy.”

The Minister continued, “This scheme, along with the support that is currently provided to rural businesses through my Department’s NI Rural Development Programme, Rural Business Investment Scheme, the Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Programme and the Micro Business Growth Pilot Scheme are vital in playing a key role in supporting, sustaining and indeed growing the development of rural businesses across Northern Ireland.

“I want to thank all the local Councils for their commitment as delivery partners and I encourage those rural businesses that have not benefitted from the Scheme in the last two years to avail of this opportunity to be considered for grant assistance.”

Applications to The Rural Business Development Grant Scheme 2021 open on 01 July 2021 and close at noon on 30 July 2021