THE man set the task of helping to try to bring the Herefordshire economy up to standard spent a year working in the city after leaving university.

Dr Richard Hutchins, director for skills and sustainable development with Advantage West Midlands, spent a year as a management trainee at Sun Valley Poultry.

He is now responsible for the distribution £1 billion of economic aid on behalf of the West Midlands Regional Develop-ment Agency.

"There are 180,000 people in Herefordshire and 5.5 million in the West Midlands and I promise that on a per capita basis the county will receive well over the average regional spend," said Dr Hutchins, aged 40.

He said the priorities if the county was to become prosperous and vibrant were a higher skilled workforce and infrastructure improvements, including much better access to public transport.

Dr Hutchins has also pledged that the whole of Herefordshire will have access to broadband internet connections by next spring.

"The internet is absolutely vital for business. Without a high speed connection it is impossible to communicate effectively or to trade."

He said a key project in the next decade would be the Edgar Street Grid, which would see the complete redevelopment of 100 acres of Hereford city centre.

"This will bring new roads, leisure facilities and retail outlets along with hundreds of new jobs to the city."

Advantage West Midlands allocates hundreds of millions of pounds of Government funding. In addition to this it helps to attract private investment to the county.

Herefordshire is also eligible for significant funding from the European Community as it is designated an "objective two" area of special need because its economy lags behind both the national and European average.