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Small businesses operating in the countryside are "dynamic, diverse and doing better than ever before", according to a study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Published last month, An Entrepreneurial Countryside found that small businesses are becoming the hub of village life and important employers in local areas.

The report also found that technology is key to the success of SMEs working in the sticks. Seven in ten small businesses based in rural areas have Net access, while one in ten was wired up for broadband. As a result, many rural businesses are home workers exploiting the benefts of technology.

"[This] report will also shock anyone under the impression that countryside entrepreneurs are techno-phobes," said the report.

While the FSB predicts that more and more SMEs will set up in the countryside, there are worries that rural areas are missing out. For instance, rural SMEs are concerned about pressure on the transport infrastructure and the high price of fuel. The FSB also wants a dedicated official at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to liaise with government on rural broadband and to monitor BT's enabling of exchanges.

Said FSB Rural Affairs Chairman John Holbrow: "The opportunities for small businesses in the countryside are endless. However, the correct infrastructure and business support must be in place for small employers to best exploit the economy wherever they are located." ®

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