More than 200 company owners and directors packed the conference hall of Kingston Maurward College for the launch of a Dorset-wide business support network.
Called Rural-Net, it has been set up by WSX Enterprise, the not-for-profit business support agency based at Poole.
At the launch event details of the scheme were outlined by WSX Enterprise’s Ian Girling and Matthew Butcher, while Government minister Oliver Letwin spoke of the value of the new initiative.
Said Mr Letwin: “We are in incredibly difficult times, but there is nothing this country deals with better, and I am constantly amazed by what is achieved in Dorset.
“Dorset has some very big and very successful firms, as well as loads and loads of tiny but energetic businesses which in many cases will be the employers of the future.
“We are on the move, and this scheme will be part of it.”
Rural-Net will meet regularly in six hubs around the county, enabling rurally-based company owners to sharpen their skills, exchange ideas and hear from experts on business issues.
Gordon Page, chairman of Dorset’s newly-created Local Enterprise Partnership, pledged the LEP’s backing for Rural-Net.
He told the meeting: “The LEP represents our chance, all of us, to make a difference; to deliver growth and rebalance the economy.
“One of the key requests when the LEP was being formed was that we should listen to the rural areas.
“The number of people here confirms the level of interest in Rural-Net, and it is being fully supported by the LEP.”
Matthew Butcher, enterprise manager for WSX, said: “So many people responded to the launch of Rural- Net that we had to double the number we had originally planned for.
“That confirms us in our belief that it is the right answer for company owners needing to network, stay up to date and develop their skills.”