Weekly update, 16th December

Energy & Business Services:

As apprentices on the North Highland College engineering programme go out into work placements during Year 2 of their course, the attached video highlights student views on the course and the lessons they have learned to date from their experiences in the workplace. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3vgSxfzJFQ

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Caithness Horizons in Thurso celebrates its 5th birthday this month, and it was good to meet this week with directors, staff and local stakeholders to commemorate this milestone. The facility was developed with funding support from CNSRP partners such as Highland Council, Dounreay (UKAEA at the time), Highlands and Islands Enterprise and other key supporters such as the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since December 2008 it has become a registered museum, a 5 star Visitor Attraction, a Visitor Information Centre and a focal point for initiatives such as Wave North and the forthcoming Year of Ancient Ancestors. Members of the CNSRP Delivery Group met with Caithness Horizons Chairman Paul Cariss this week to discuss the organisation’s future plans, and how they will fit into the wider regeneration programme.

North Highland Initiative continues to make progress with its plans in the tourism sector – NHI’s focus on niche opportunities such as the Northern Lights is made clear in its “Dark Sky Experience” leaflet. With funding support from CNSRP partner the Highland Council the leaflet includes a map of the best places to view the night skies in the north. It complements the already attractive range of opportunities on the NHI’s tourism web portal, which highlights the range of accommodation, food & drink businesses that can be used by visitors coming to the area to enjoy seasonal opportunities such as Dark Skies – the leaflet can be downloaded from http://northhighlandsscotland.com/nightskies

Enabling Activities:

Caithness Chamber of Commerce brought a group of local businesses and partners together again this week to meet with HIE’s Director of Digital to discuss the rollout of Next Generation Broadband (NGB) in the north. With work already underway on the work to enable both Wick and Thurso exchanges, we discussed the timescales for further data on NGB availability across our wider area, and agreed to meet again in February when further information from BT should be available. In the meantime the Chamber is also likely to be delivering several HIE-sponsored digital engagement events across the area. These events will allow businesses to discuss the implications of NGB services for their own business with staff from the Chamber, HIE and with an IT consultant. More details of this programme of events will be available in the New Year.

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:

  • I met this week with Cllr Matthew Reiss, newly-elected to serve the Landward Caithness ward of Highland Council. I was able to update Cllr Reiss on the work of the Partnership, and to highlight key current areas of activity. We discussed a wide range of sectors, including tourism, so it was good to see the launch this week of the NHI’s Dark-skies leaflet (as mentioned above).
  •  Will Clark’s piece in today’s (Friday’s) John O’Groat Journal highlights a busy run-up to Christmas for town centre businesses in both Wick and Thurso, and the same edition of the paper also carries news of plans by Flavours (the John O’Groats business) to set up an additional shop in Thurso next Spring following a huge response to its presence at Thurso’s Pop-up Shop during November and December.