A £3.5m investment will create 900 jobs and 500 new businesses in Cumbria, said the government.

Farm minister Jim Paice is visiting Cumbria today to promote the work of the Rural Growth Network, announced in the budget in April.

As well as meeting local farmers, councils and local enterprise partnerships on his Rural Roadshow, Mr Paice will have his first meetings with the region’s two Rural and Farming Networks.

He will be visiting the Blencathra Business Centre in Keswick, which will be transformed into eight new work premises, with business services including one-to-one business advice, online training, networking opportunities and access to superfast broadband.

This is just one of the Rural Growth Network’s “enterprise hubs” planned for rural areas across Cumbria, which will deliver business support to a range of sectors, including food and drink, adventure sports and digital and creative enterprises.

To complete his rural roadshow, Mr Paice will deliver the keynote speech at the Dairy Farming in Cumbria conference in Penrith. The conference is the first of its kind and will focus on the challenges faced by farmers, growth opportunities and sharing best practice on farm management.

Mr Paice said: “My rural roadshow to Cumbria gives me an opportunity to hear first-hand not only about the challenges rural businesses face, but also about the innovative ideas that have made them a success.

“It’s all about listening to what works, and how the government can do more to enable rural businesses to achieve their economic potential and support thriving rural communities.”

Will Cockbain, chair of the Cumbria and North Lancashire Farming, Food and Rural Network, said: “We welcome the fact the minister is here in Cumbria. The current milk issues are clearly of great concern to a county like Cumbria with its hugely important dairy sector.

“As well as the milk issue, the Cumbria and North Lancashire RFN group are also looking to discuss issues around flooding and river and stream maintenance, drainage and the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme.”

In a further boost for the region’s rural economy, a new £15m investment is announced today to enable top local employer Lake District Creamery to take up new opportunities in the export market.

The Rural Growth Network is part of a £165m programme of measures the government is delivering to grow business and create new job prospects in rural areas.