How Covid is Changing The North Dorset Economy

Before Covid19 swept the globe, concern about the environment had reached tipping point.   Now, as a radical shift to new sectors of the economy emerges it is vital that the environment is top of the list of concerns, and we support the entrepreneurs and emerging companies that are setting out on a course to protect the environment, as well as promote a path to prosperity.

Covid19 has changed behaviour and created opportunities.   One key change is localization – we are travelling less to offices and are investing more time and money in our local communities.   It is hoped local high streets and retail parks may attract new customers as a result.   Online services still thrive, from food delivery to piano lessons – many of these are delivered by businesses at a local level.

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Located in Sturminster Newton, Harts is one of the largest in-store and online retailers of kitchenware in the UK.   With the majority of its business online, Harts has developed an award-winning app and is currently expanding its garden centre and opening a café.   Wessex Internet, based in Iwerne Minster, specializes in delivering high speed internet solutions to rural locations.   Award winning Prodigy IT Solutions, based near Blandford, offers IT service management to small and medium business across Dorset.

The Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is supporting a digital and cultural transformation across Dorset by funding growth in Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing (AEM), Creative Technology and Agriculture/Aquaculture.    Investment includes engineering and construction centres in Weymouth College, and construction and design in Bournemouth and Poole College.

Courses in cyber security, visual effects, gaming, animation, app creation and post production are available in Bournemouth Universities.   This year 162 apprentices trained on high spec workshops and machinery at Kingston Maurwood, and the LEP have funded an innovative agri-tech company, draperVENT, to develop computerized climate control systems for the agricultural sector.  Dorset has a long and proud tradition of farming – the agricultural sector is worth over £100m.

The government’s programme, KickStart, provides funding for 16-24 year olds in a six month job placement but will need to do more to support those made unemployed due to Covid19.   Our rural and emerging technology economy also needs a more flexible use of the apprenticeship levy to provide technology skills training.

There are reasons to be positive – we live in beautiful countryside and Dorset people are a resilient bunch.   If we shop local, choose local produce and use local businesses and services, this will help both our rural economy and the environment.  

Jane Westbrook, North Dorset CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England)

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