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Major boost for private enterprise

Friday, 02 August 2013

Aldershot's local economy received a welcome boost today when an initiative to help ex-service personnel set up in business was approved.

Councillor Seán Woodward, Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment at Hampshire County Council, approved - at his Decision Day today - the provision of a start-up fund of £160,000 to create and manage an enterprise centre at Mandora Officers' Mess in Aldershot.

The centre - intended primarily for personnel who leave HM Forces, their families, veterans and reservists - will also be available for use by people in the wider community who want to set themselves up in business. It will promote growth, job creation and sustainable employment in the Aldershot area by providing commercial work space for fledgling enterprises, as well as business support and advice. Mandora Officers' Mess is a Ministry of Defence office building that is partly vacant and ideally located to become an enterprise centre.

Subject to all parties agreeing terms, private company WSX Enterprise will take on the lease of the Officers' Mess, and the associated costs of running and managing the centre. The grant, which is dependent on a lease being signed, will be used to fit out the centre and for start up costs for the first two years - after this period the centre is forecast to turn a profit, all of which will be ploughed back into business support initiatives for ex-Armed Forces personnel and the wider community.

Hampshire has a historic and long-standing close relationship with the Armed Forces and has a wider range of military facilities than any other county in the UK. Hampshire was chosen as one of the Welfare Pathway Pilots and was one of the first local authorities to sign the Armed Forces Community Covenant.

An effective partnership has been forged between the three Armed Forces, Hampshire County Council, district and borough councils, the NHS and others to ensure that service personnel, their families, veterans and reservists have access to the help and support they need.

Councillor Woodward commented:

"Small businesses are a major contributor to the County's economy. This support will enable WSX Enterprise to create a flexible, affordable business space in which Aldershot start up companies can grow and flourish. Armed Forces personnel who leave the services have a wide range of skills and the enterprise centre will give them access to all the tools they need to harness these and start their own business. On offer will be flexible work space advice, support and training.

"We have worked hard with our partners, including Her Majesty's Forces and Rushmoor Borough Council to bring this to fruition, a testament to our commitment to Aldershot and to the Armed Forces, which plays such an important role in the area's economy. It will show that self-employment is a viable option for many, and will provide a stimulus for future job creation."

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