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BRAG Enterprise was developed as a result of the immense impact to the local economy of the pit closures after the miners’ strikes of the mid-80’s. In the 1980s the Benarty area, located in Central Fife, had one of the highest rates of unemployment in Fife and in Scotland. The area had relied upon the coal industry and although many of the local pits had closed in the sixties many men still travelled to work in the larger deep mines under the River Forth as well as to Rosyth Naval Dockyard who was also a large local employer. By the mid 80’s many of these sites along with their supply chain partners had simply disappeared.
BRAG (Benarty Regeneration Action Group) Enterprises was founded by a group of community activists. The initiative was a direct response from the community to the specific social and economic impact of the demise of the coal industry on the communities of Benarty, Kelty, Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly. This area was collectively referred to as The Benarty Basin.
The area had a strong sense of community and a history of collective working which had now stretched back many years. The founding of BRAG in 1988 was yet another example of their own response to a local need where the community itself decided to take control.
Shortly before BRAG Enterprise was established, Fife Regional Council had built a new Primary School nearby leaving the old Crosshill Primary School building redundant. The fledgling new community group approached the council and BRAG Enterprises initially leased this old primary school building with a focus on providing training for local people coming out of the mining industry.
Incrementally the old school then moved from being a primary school to a community based workspace and training facility. The classrooms where converted into offices and workshops and with the help of European funding four light industrial units were built for new businesses. In 2008 with support from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and an interest free loan from Fife Council, Brag then purchased the whole site. Since then they have continued to develop the site with new portacabin incubator units being added in 2010 and an updated Biomass boiler being installed in 2014.
Essentially BRAG Enterprises has now established the Crosshill Business Centre as a place to locate and develop enterprise as well as a venue for community based learning and work. Over the years BRAG Enterprises has been successful in securing funding support from Fife Council, the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust as well as generating a significant income itself as a landlord of this now thriving business centre. Collectively its property portfolio has over 70 workspace units from which then operates over 40 diverse start-up and social enterprise businesses. To compliment this activity it also provides a wide range of complimentary initiatives including employability, business support, and retraining activities within the immediate community and beyond.
More recently needs have changed and its services have moved outwith the more immediate area, with a particular focus on delivering within similar areas of high deprivation known as SIMD sites (Scottish Indices of Multiple Deprivation).The surplus income from our business space has then been used to then compliment SLA (Service Level Agreement) employability funding from Fife Council alongside some independent charitable trusts and commercial contracts with DWP e.g. New Enterprise Allowance. A small proportion of our current Employablity funding is also supplemented by ESIF funding.We have also moved into joint ventures with other partners to form consortiums and co-operatives with the most recent being the Fife Employment and Training Consortium (Fife ETC) where BRAG now act as the lead partner.
This experience along with our strong ability to build on our community links whilst working with partners, have been a key strength and given our stakeholders the utmost confidence in our abilities. As such we have been successful in assisting hundreds of people start up new businesses or social enterprises in Fife. Some of these business now operate with turnovers in excess of £500,000, employing dozens of people mainly from the same SIMD areas we have been supporting helping improve inclusive growth in that area. On the employment front, we have helped thousands of unemployed people back into sustainable employment allowing them to enjoy a more positive future for them and their families.
More recently the Centre has been renamed the Crosshill Community Enterprise Centre. Although Brag now operates from other sites across East Central Scotland it is still deeply rooted in its home of Crosshill.