A COMPANY on the brink of closure because of foot-and-mouth has come back through diversifying.

HGM Services of Patrick Brompton, a grounds maintenance company, lost 70pc of its trade through the 2001 epidemic but, but thanks to a Business Link York and North Yorkshire supporting innovations fund, the firm has tripled its turnover and taken on more staff.

Stephen Howitt, managing director, said: "We were not able to service the large country houses due to foot-and-mouth, so we went to Business Link. The first grant we got was for £15,000 three years ago, and we got another £2,500.

"With Business Link's help I accessed the funding I needed to diversify, and they've been on hand to support, advise and, importantly, listen when I've needed someone to talk about the business ever since."

Now the company works as a professional team of horticulturists, looking after gardens and car parks across North Yorkshire.

William Hague, MP for Richmond, visited HGM Services last week and praised the 11-employee company's efforts.

"It's a good example of how grants can be well used," he said, "and it's really helped this business to diversify after a very difficult time. I hope other businesses in North Yorkshire will avail themselves of these grants."

Mr Howitt is also preparing to launch a cleaning service for communal areas within housing developments.

HGM Services is planning to branch out again by working with local artist Dominic Ropner, and is to supply sculptures carved in traditional white Cornish stone to property developers and architects to enhance housing schemes.

Business Link's YNY chief executive, Helen West, said: "HGM Services is a textbook example of what the supporting innovations service was set up to achieve - helping forward- thinking businesses in rural North Yorkshire to diversify, develop and grow, benefiting the entire area in terms of job creation, innovation and economic prosperity.