Each week the Journal asks North Devon's parliamentary candidates for the 2015 general election where they stand on some of the area's big issues. This week we ask: "How would you encourage investment in the area?"
Nick Harvey – Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon
North Devon offers much to new and expanding businesses: our natural environment, welcoming community and our "can-do" attitude.
One further important incentive would be added if we could secure Assisted Area Status for our key business areas, opening the door to UK and EU grants. I have been lobbying business secretary Vince Cable hard on this, and brought him in the autumn to see North Devon companies which are planning expansion.
Mr Cable's department is responsible for business support, training/apprenticeships, further education and universities. He had to balance the funds he was allocated by Chancellor Osborne between these.
He did his best for university students, but any more would have been at the expense of business grants like those we are seeking locally, apprenticeships which have been a great success in North Devon, and funding for Petroc which plays a vital role in building North Devon's workforce of the future.
Mark Cann – Labour
North Devon depends on small and medium sized enterprises and Labour is committed to a range of measures that will encourage businesses and employment to grow.
Labour will cut and freeze business rates on small and medium sized businesses with premises with a rateable value under £50,000 and will freeze energy bills for rural businesses. It will take action on the roll out of rural broadband that is two years behind schedule and is a source of frustration and a disincentive to invest.
Small businesses rank access to finance as their biggest barrier to growth. Labour is committed to creating a British Investment Bank along with a network of local and regional business banks with a responsibility to boost lending in their area.
Steve Crowther – UKIP
We need to get people to move here and start businesses when they're young. That means we need the best communications infrastructure – especially broadband and mobile networks – and reliable transport links.
I'd market North Devon more heavily in London and the other big cities, and bend over backwards to provide a package to make business start-ups in North Devon attractive.
Sorry to say it, but we need to "build our brand". We know that a quarter of Britons have holidayed here, often as children; let's bring them back with their business ideas.
Peter Heaton-Jones – Conservative Party
North Devon needs substantial investment to create jobs and upgrade our infrastructure such as roads and schools.
Frankly we have been short-changed. For instance, because of an historically unfair formula, Devon is one of the lowest-funded education authorities.
I brought Michael Gove here to put our case, and the Government is now committed to a fairer system.
I'll continue to lobby ministers. North Devon is a largely rural area, so I'll work with the Rural Fair Share campaign to fight for a better deal.
We must also attract private sector investment to boost employment. I'll be an energetic ambassador for North Devon, highlighting that we're open for business with a skilled and motivated workforce.
I've chaired a committee overseeing economic investment, so have the experience to make a real contribution.