Weekly Update, 27th June 2011

Energy:
Aberdeen-based firm AMC Engineering, who manufacture high-precision torque equipment for the oil & gas industry, have announced they will be building new workshops at Lybster. The Company’s MD is Andrew Polson, who is from Caithness. He is one of the business figures who has taken part in HIE’s “Caithness Ambassadors” initiative. The expansion of the company’s Lybster base, which has been supported through grant aid from HIE, is expected to create around 10 additional jobs in the area.

Following their recent takeover NES engineering at Bower was renamed Numax Engineering Services Ltd. The Company is now recruiting new staff to deliver a recently-secured renewables contract, with staff numbers at Bower now back to around 25 people. Numax is also set to re-locate another part of its business to Caithness, bringing additional jobs with it.

The NDA has just published a summary of the survey it conducted with its top Tier 2 contractors across the NDA estate regarding use of SME’s in the supply chains of NDA and its Site License Companies. This is in response to UK Government plans to increase access for SMEs to public sector procurement opportunities. Site License Companies last year spent £1.36bn in the supply chain. You can read the results of the survey, together with a description of what the NDA plans to do next, at http://www.nda.gov.uk/documents/upload/Supply-chain-development-Questionnaire-responses-on-use-of-SMEs-in-the-NDA-estate-supply-chain-June-2011.pdf

Tidal Energy company Meygen has been holding public consultation meetings in Caithness this week to gauge views on the issues to be included in its Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed tidal development in the Inner Sound between Stroma and the Caithness mainland. The company held open days in Caithness Horizons yesterday and today (both 10am-7pm), with a further day in Mey Village Hall tomorrow (2nd July) from 10am til 4pm.

Yesterday was Duncan Mackay’s final day as Wave & Tidal Project Manager with The Crown Estate. After 3 years in post Duncan is moving into the private sector, setting up his own energy consulting business (Mackay Energy Ltd). Duncan has played a significant role in taking the original Pentland Firth Tidal Energy Project to what became the world’s first commercial leasing round, and I will certainly miss being a next door neighbour to him in our Thurso offices. Discussions continue with Crown Estate as to whether such a resource can continue to be based in the north. CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver recently met with TCE’s Chairman Sir Stuart Hampson to discuss this, and a number of local organisations have written to Crown Estate on the same subject.

Tourism:

This weekend sees an exciting programme of events at John O’ Groats as part of the “Transform” project, with a range of local and regional artists working together to celebrate the iconic hotel building before it undergoes the building work required to deliver phase one of the John o’ Groats redevelopment. The weekend’s events are on both Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11.30am both days, and are supported by HIE and the Highland LEADER programme. You can find out more about the events happening on the two days by logging onto www.hie.co.uk/blog/john-o-groats or www.facebook.com/JohnOGroatsTransformation

Enabling activities:

Skills Development Scotland will in future be represented on the CNSRP Executive Board via Liz Galashan, Head of Operations for the Highlands, Islands and Grampian. Liz is based in Inverness, and I met with her this week to discuss the Partnership’s current activities. SDS has been an important partner in the “Make the Right Connections” programme, and is involved in a range of activities crucial to the economic transition process. SDS Area Manager Ian Carse is already a member of the Partnership’s Advisory Board.

I met with HIE staff supporting the STEM project for Caithness and North Sutherland high schools. As previously reported Wick High School teacher Stuart Tait has been seconded two days per week to support this project, which aims to raise student awareness of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, and also to offer teachers enhanced opportunities to engage with businesses. The programme of activities should begin to deliver in earnest once the new school year starts in August.

Caithness Transport Forum met today (Friday) to discuss current transport issues, including some draft conclusions from the geo-physical survey of the area of Berriedale Braes being proposed for a re-alignment of the A9. A number of local and regional representatives also met to progress our assessment of how onshore facilities relating to the energy sector can be enhanced with appropriate transport links within the area.

Communications:

As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week: