Sir George Young opened the first rural electronic office in the South East at 1 Winchester St, Whitchurch.
"This project has been funded as part of a package of projects by the South East England Development Agency to help support small businesses in rural areas. Hampshire County Council’s Economic Development Office is behind the initiative, which comes under the Mobile and Teleworking Initiative for a Smarter South East (MATISSE) and aims to reduce the need to commute to work."
Sir George welcomed the support given to the project by Basingstoke and Deane Council and by Whitchurch Town Council.
"This particular project has been the brainchild of Phil Cooper and Stewart Parrington, under the badge of Working4Whitchurch. Other projects in the pipeline include improving the shopfronts in the town centre - and all this stems from the Healthcheck, undertaken in Whitchurch a few years ago. This identified the strengths of the town that need to be built on, and the weaknesses that need addressing. Revitalising the town centre was a key priority, and bringing this disused barbers shop back into use in the middle of the town will help."
The office provides desk space for up to 3 and has full internet access plus the normal office facilities for copying, faxing, document production that small and start-up businesses cannot afford or do not have space for. There is also a small meeting room with presentation equipment which can be used in a medium and larger meeting rooms in the town which will be shortly be linked to form a single virtual office. The facility will also be available for those company employees who are allowed to work from home but again don’t have the space for them and travelling employees of companies such as BT which is increasing closing down its offices to save money.
Representatives of all the agencies involved in the project, Hampshire County Council, MATISSE, SEEDA, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Whitchurch Town Council and the town’s business association were present together with the first of the office’s users. Cllr Mike Woodhall represented the County Council. Glenda O'Neill, the recently appointed Whitchurch Town Centre Business Manager, was also there.
The aims of the 'e.office' are to offer hourly/half or full day use of fully equipped office or meeting room facilities to:
a. people starting their own business, and requiring office facilities and business support.
b. people working from home, who need office/meeting room space at certain times.
c. encourage commuters to work from home/e.office, for say one day a week, reducing the wasted time in
travel (and cost).
An increased working population in Whitchurch should also help to improve the local economy.