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RDP Funding helps local surveyors Map out Success

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Successful Rural Development Programme applicant talks to us about life in rural business.

Causeway Coast and Glens LAG completed assessment of all applications received under  Call 1 of the Rural Business Investment in September 2016. Letters Of Offer have now been awarded to all successful applicants totalling a funding allocation of £476,260.08.

Amongst the successful businesses awarded funding is North West Land Survey. Claire Thames, who co-owns the business with her husband Ian, was awarded funding of £7,400 to help purchase equipment that will enable the business to achieve increased growth over the coming years. Claire spoke with the Rural Development Team on her experiences in running a rural business and about her recent involvement in applying for funding.


 
Tell us a bit about your business...

"We provide land survey services to both private and public sector clients. We work mainly with architects and developers as well as local authorities providing them with accurate 3D maps of land and buildings to enable them to carry out their planning and design work. The work is really varied and our survey teams work all over the north of Ireland and sometimes further afield. We have undertaken work in County Cork along with a number of jobs in Scotland and have just quoted for a job in Birmingham. We are fortunate however in that everyone usually gets to come back to their own homes every evening - we rarely have to stay away for work and that's still not something that everyone in construction can say even with the recent upturn in business locally. 
I tend to work in our office in Greysteel whereas my husband Ian is normally out and about. That definitely makes working together a bit easier!" 

 

 

How did you find the experience of setting up a business?

"We set up North West Land Survey in 2009 which was at a hectic point in time for our family. We had 3 children who at that time were aged 6, 3 & 1, and I had just left my job to work as a freelance accountant. On top of this of course, the economy had just settled into a major recession, and we were working primarily in the construction sector when it was experiencing its worst downturn for decades. It was extremely tough going for the first few years, but in spite of these difficulties we were very fortunate in that we were taking on an existing business which had a great reputation and fantastic, experienced staff. Thankfully we started to see a definite, sustained improvement in 2013/14 and the business has really gone from strength to strength since then."

 


You were successful in applying for Rural Development Funding. What will it fund?

"We have used the grant money to purchase a state of the art GPS survey instrument. It's essentially like an extremely accurate version of the GPS you have in your car or on your phone. It enables us to map any point on the ground with millimetre accuracy and in a matter of seconds. The GPS records each point taken in the field and then when we get back to the office all those points are downloaded and used to produce a highly accurate drawing in CAD which can be used for multiple tasks, such as designing a development, working out a flood risk analysis, comparing different road routes or any number of other potential projects. Ian has already been out using the new GPS and it is making huge difference to the time taken to carry out work, meaning that we will be able to tender for larger jobs going forward and expand our workforce accordingly."

 

 

What are the benefits of running your business in a rural location? 

"Being located in a rural area suits us really well. Because our work is so widely spread across the country we don't need to be located in a major town or city, in fact it would be an unnecessary expense to be paying high rent and rates, and the traffic jams and lack of parking would be a distinct disadvantage!  Our staff all live close by the office and we have a great wee unit with great neighbours, plenty of parking and fantastic views of Lough Foyle and Binevenagh. Our landlord is actually a community enterprise so it is good to know we are contributing to the area in that way as well. Due to the nature of our business most of our customers are based in rural areas too so all-in-all we feel we fit in quite well here."

 

What are the difficulties of running a business in a rural area?

"I can't think of many issues we have encountered in running a business here. We are lucky in that we have access to fibre broadband and good road links and I can appreciate that that is not always the case in rural areas."

 


Any tips for future applicants? 

"I would say that my training as an accountant helped me a lot filling in the application and it is quite daunting to take on at first. I would say ask for help if you feel overwhelmed with it - you might not need to pay an accountant or consultant, a friend who is good with figures or forms is definitely better than sitting panicking or giving up on the whole thing. Also, don't leave it all until the last minute like I did! There's a lot to do and it is worth giving yourself time to make sure you have everything covered."


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