A new £2 million fund has been launched to encourage business innovation in the west and north west of Wales.
The ‘Arfor’ fund will target the Welsh-speaking heartlands of Anglesey, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire – particularly in areas where there’s an influx of older people and an exodus of younger people.
The pilot scheme forms part of the two-year budget agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
Economy Minister, Ken Skates, says funding will given to the four county councils to find new ways of boosting economic development, particularly in areas where the foundational and agricultural economy plays a vital role and in market & university towns hit by low income.
To minimise costs, Gwynedd County Council will oversee the scheme on behalf of the four local authorities.
Mr Skates, also the minister for North Wales, said on Tuesday: ”This innovative programme, based on extensive discussion with local authority partners, aims to test out new approaches to promote entrepreneurship, business growth and community resilience in the four local authority areas, with a focus on promoting the use of the Welsh language.”
”The Economic Action Plan has been very clear on the need for Welsh Government to support all parts of our economy to drive up skills, encourage innovation and identify and utilise emerging technology.”
”I am therefore pleased to provide £2 million funding over a two year period to support this initiative which will help guide and inform future activity in areas where we know the rural and foundational economies are of paramount importance, our Welsh speaking and rural heartlands.”
A Government spokesperson said the four counties in the ‘Arfor’ region will look towards:
- promoting enterprise and supporting business growth in areas with a high proportion of Welsh speakers
- generating more and better paid jobs to retain local people in these areas and encourage those who have left to return
- promoting the wide ranging value of the use of Welsh and bilingualism in business creating a vibrant sense of place
- encouraging the businesses and people who move to rural areas to value and use the Welsh language
The scheme will also allow the councils to work together on joint projects benefiting the wider region.
Gwynedd council leader Dyfrig Siencyn said: ”This initial investment is the culmination of several months of joint-working between the leaders of the four Arfor councils and the Welsh Government.”
”With the funding now in place, we can move forward together to explore ways in which we can ensure a vibrant and diverse economy that includes new and better paid work for local people which will, in turn, support the Welsh language.”
”We very much hope that this will be the first phase of a project that will both boost the Arfor economy and contribute towards the government’s target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.”