Posted: 15.08.19 at 15:50 by The Editor
An optometrists and a ceramics artist in Rutland have successfully modernised and expanded their operations following a combined £52,700 worth of grant funding from the LEADER programme.
Oakham's Simmons Optometrists received a £40,100 grant towards a building extension that has created more private consultation areas for customers, provided greater accessibility and incorporated more modern display units for the store.
James Alexander, one of the practice’s directors said: “The improvements achieved through the LEADER programme have really enhanced the level of customer care we can offer and allows us the space to develop the business over the coming years.
“Thanks to the funding we’ve extended our premises so that we can see more patients, but still give them the time, space and care they’ve come to expect from us – we can already see the difference it will make to us going forward!
“The whole place feels much more bright and contemporary and gives us a much more practicable and inviting environment for our staff to work in and our customers to visit.
"Already we’ve received a fantastic reaction from our patients, who really seem to appreciate the hard work put in.”
Ceramics artist Katherine Staples has also finished construction of a studio, complete with industrial kilns for use on her own creations and for the classes she aims to set up, thanks to a £12,600 grant.
With her children going to school, Katherine is getting back into producing large scale commissions and wants to bring the mental health benefits of artwork to a wider audience.
“It’s been so rewarding to get back into project work and I’ve been blown away with the support from the local community. Without this grant I would have really struggled to get my business off the ground so quickly.
“Art is such a fantastic outlet. Personally I’ve found working with clay very therapeutic and that’s what I want for my workshops - for people to unleash their creativity, really use their imagination and get a boost from socialising and learning new skills.”
LEADER funding aims to boost the rural economy, from supporting tourism and small business growth to aiding the development of agriculture, farm diversification and forestry. Across rural Peterborough and Rutland, the £1.3 million funding programme is being delivered by Opportunity Peterborough with support from Rutland County Council.
This work is supported by a Local Action Group (LAG) made up of 14 local volunteers from a variety of sectors and professions. The LAG approves funding for projects with the aim of improving the overall prosperity of the area.
Dennis Stanley, chair of LAG said: “We are thrilled to see so many projects reaching completion.
"With these four in particular, there has been an impressive dedication to providing a fantastic customer experience - an essential consideration for any business - which we’ve been very happy to support.”
Councillor Oliver Hemsley, Leader of Rutland County Council, said: “It’s really encouraging to see so many independent businesses capitalising on their hard work and enhancing their services with the LEADER programme.
"Success builds success and, often, entrepreneurs just need access to the right injection of funding at the right time to in order to take their business to the next level.
"Ensuring local services and community hubs remain accessible and competitive is vital for our rural communities.”
Tom Hennessy, chief executive of Opportunity Peterborough added: “These projects fulfil so many of the LEADER programme’s priorities; to support small businesses, rural services, tourism, increase farm productivity and heritage activities.
"It’s been a privilege to help this diverse range of organisations whose contribution to the rural economy goes so much deeper than finances - they strengthen community cohesion and improve wellbeing for residents, in turn, helping services and businesses in the area to run efficiently and remain productive.”