Weekly Update, 4th July 2011
I participated in a meeting this week of the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters Coordination Committee, substituting for Stuart Black of Highland Council. This group brings together Scottish Government’s Renewables team, Marine Scotland, HIE, Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council and the Crown Estate. In the light of the Crown Estate’s recent publication of the “build-out story” for wave and tidal energy in the Pentland Firth area the group is focusing on the collective actions that its members can prioritise over the coming months and years to support the industry’s requirements and to maximise the economic benefits from developing the industry.
Business Gateway, the national business support and advisory network, which is run in this area by Highland Opportunity Ltd on behalf of Highland Council, continues to support a range of new and existing companies. I met this week with Development Officer Jennifer Irvine for a regular progress update. Business Gateway supported 24 new business starts in Caithness alone last year, and Jennifer and her colleague David Knight in Sutherland work with HIE to support the Scottish Government’s economic strategy. Business Gateway is also working with Caithness Chamber of Commerce to support local businesses to address issues such as procurement opportunities and legislation.
I also met this week with members of the North Highland Regeneration Fund, the NDA-supported initiative to deliver loan-based finance to local businesses. Joining up our collective efforts on public sector support to business is acknowledged to be a key opportunity for us, and is an important factor in marketing the area as an attractive one in which to do business. Better targeting of support to key sectors is an issue for us as we pursue the Caithness & North Sutherland Action Plan’s focus on opportunities in energy and business services.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has appointed David Richardson as its new Highlandsand Islands Development Manager. David will be known to many in the north through previous roles at Sutherland Tourist Board, Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board and the Carnegie Club at Skibo. Through the good offices of FSB’s area chair Joan Campbell I’ll be meeting up with David next week to discuss current challenges and opportunities in this area. Meantime you can read coverage of his appointment at http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/David-Richardson-in-new-role-02072011.htm
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:
- Business Gateway, as mentioned above, continues to support new business start-ups in the area. Local coverage this week of returning graduate Lisa Poulsen’s new Thurso-based venture “Inspired by Caithness” can be read at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Landscape-inspires-graphic-designers-business-start-up-07072011.htm
- Last weekend’s “Transform” events at John O’ Groats attracted a range of press coverage. Caithness Courier carried two pieces: one talking about “mixed responses” from locals ( http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Mixed-reaction-to-Groats-hotel-artwork-7006994.htm) and the other mentioning the increased trade reported by retailers at John O’ Groats over the course of the three days of activity (http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Groats-businesses-report-sales-up-by-50-7006921.htm)
- The appointment of Simon Coles to a 12 month secondment with HIE – supporting the next phase of the inward investment campaign for Caithness and north Sutherland – has this week attracted coverage from the Press & Journal and the Northern Times (http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Babcock-engineer-seconded-to-North-Sutherland-regeneration-group-04072011.htm)
- This month’s edition of the Dounreay News magazine carries Partnership-related stories on Crown Estate “build-out story”, superfast broadband and NorthHighlandCollege’s ETEC project. The full-colour magazine is issued to the Dounreay workforce and supply chain each month, and is made available to the wider public via local outlets in the area, so it is a good medium through which to communicate progress on key projects. http://www.dounreay.com/UserFiles/File/Dounreay%20News/dounreaynewsPR%20NP2011%20July%20A2.pdf
- Following the resignation of the Wick & Thurso Town Centre Development Manager there has also been coverage this week of discussions regarding the future direction of this project, which is run by Caithness Chamber of Commerce with funding from the NDA and the Highland LEADER programme. The piece includes constructive comments from Cllr. Gail Ross, recently elected as a member on the Wick Ward of Highland Council. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Two-town-centre-officers-needed-claims-chamber-7006934.htm