Weekly Update, 18th February 2013

Energy:
Good news this week from Ignis Biomass Ltd, the owners and operators of the Combined Heat & Power Plant in Wick. The Company has invested an initial £2.5M in a new biomass boiler, which has now been installed and is operating. In addition to providing heat for the Wick District Heating scheme the boiler provides steam to the neighbouring Pulteney Distillery, helping owners Inver House reduce reliance on fossil fuels to run its operation. Ignis Director Craig Ibbetson provided an update presentation to members of the CNSRP Advisory Board last November, so it is good to see this progress taking place, and it was good to meet Craig at this week’s Wick Charrette (see below) where he was able to join community representatives and local business leaders at the event’s Local Economy workshop, talking about the company’s forward plans, and its positive experience of using local contractors. More information at http://www.ignis-biomass.com

Tourism, Food & Drink:
I had separate meetings this week with Tom Campbell, Chief Executive of the North Highland Initiative, and with representatives of the Centre for Design Innovation, both to discuss recent progress in tourism and food & drink activities relating to the area. The CfDI is managing a HIE-funded contract to work with a group of area tourism businesses, who met this week in Wick. North Highland Initiative’s forward plans on tourism, food and drink and the built environment offer a strong programme, which I look forward to hearing more about in the coming weeks.

Enabling Activities:
Tomorrow (Saturday 23rd) sees around 40 organisations coming together in North Highland College’s Engineering, Technology and Energy Centre (ETEC) to run the Caithness Chamber’s “Jobs and How To Get Them” event. It runs from 10am – 4pm, and will feature stands from businesses in the engineering, renewables, retail, tourism, construcation, forestry and other sectors, as well as support agencies such as Skills Development Scotland, JobCentre Plus, Highland Council Employability Team, HIE, Business Gateway and others. Workshops will be run on CV writing, job interview preparation, career planning. Ken Nicol (DSRL) and myself will be running a presentation on some areas of future employment potential.  The event is aimed at school and college leavers, the unemployed and the employed.

Also tomorrow both Wick and Thurso will see further all-day “Charrette” events as The Highland Council prepares for the next Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan. I attended the first Wick Charrette event yesterday (Thursday 21st), and gave a presentation on areas of future employment potential as part of the “Local Economy” workshop. I will make a similar presentation at today’s Thurso Charrette event in the Pentland Hotel. The event is open from 2pm-8pm. Tomorrow’s Charrette events are in Wick Assembly Rooms (11am-4pm) and the Pentland Hotel Thurso (11am-4pm). Copies of the programme of events can be viewed at http://www.highland.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/DD719BD2-DE54-4D99-B3FD-18D235F993E6/0/WickCharretteLeaflet.pdf for Wick and at http://www.highland.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/EF023B93-19CA-488F-865C-D28944AB9C06/0/ThursoCharretteLeaflet.pdf for Thurso.

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:

  • Congratulations to Rob Arthur and his team at the Thurso Cinema on completing a deal with Sony Digital Cinema that will see cutting edge 4G projection equipment installed at the Cinema, allowing it to become a much wider multi-media hub, with 3D and multi-user Big Screen gaming capability, cultural/ sporting event screening etc. 4G projection is said to offer four times the picture quality of an HDTV. The news comes in the same week that Thurso Cinema was announced as one of the winners of the Scottish EDGE competition to encourage entrepreneurial activity in Scotland. The £50,000 award will help support the creation of a family restaurant at the Thurso facility.