Energy & Business Services:
I met up this week with Stephen Sutherland, Chair of Caithness Chamber of Commerce and director at JGC Engineering & Technical Services, at a tourism-related session hosted by the Chamber Board (see below for more). Stephen told me about the fantastic news that JGC has been awarded a contract by Siemens Transmission and Distribution relating to the Triton Knoll offshore windfarm project of the east coast of England. JGC is an account-managed company for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and we’re looking forward to meeting Stephen and his fellow Directors to discuss the company’s future growth plans. https://renews.biz/49957/smulders-fabricom-takes-triton-otm-double/
Melness Crofters’ Estate confirmed yesterday (Friday 9th) that a ballot of its members had voted in favour of continuing to work with CNSRP partner HIE towards an agreed “heads of terms” for the land identified as the site for a launch facility for small-scale satellites. 59% of votes cast were in favour of continuing to work on the plans for the land on the Moine, to the west of Tongue in North Sutherland. As previously highlighted here, CNSRP partners have been supportive of the project’s potential to create economic opportunities, and we can now look forward to more detailed community engagement. http://news.hie.co.uk/all-news/crofters-vote-in-favour-of-working-with-hie-on-plans-for-uk-s-first-spaceport/
Good to see that town centre wi-fi in Wick and Thurso is officially live, following a significant amount of preparatory work in both town centres. I met this week with Keith Grant from Highland Council to talk through its operation and potential wider impacts, as well as potential for it to be rolled out to other communities. Keith has led this technically challenging work for the Council, as one of the elements contained in the Inverness & Highland City-Region Deal. https://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/11408/high-fi_for_wick_and_thurso_%E2%80%93_free_wifi_is_rolled_out_to_caithness_towns
I met with representatives from Caithness Voluntary Group, Highland Council and Highlife Highland last week to look at progress on the various strands of the Caithness Community Planning Partnership. It was particularly pleasing to hear from Allan Tait at CVG of its successful application to the Aspiring Communities Fund to engage three new development officers to support plans to tackle social and economic inequalities in the area. The first step in getting this initiative off the ground is recruitment, and the job adverts can be found at http://forum.caithness.org/showthread.php?271564-Caithness-Development-Officers-Project-Co-ordinator-P-T We also welcomed the plans from Keith Moncur (HighLife Highland) to run a consultation event for young people to support the current review of health services in Caithness – details of this will be published next week). The Caithness Community Planning Partnership has its next meeting in Thurso on Friday 21st November.
Tourism Food & Drink
In my role as Area Manager I took part last week in an event co-sponsored by UHI and the North Highland Initiative, which focused on how best to meet the challenges arising from the very successful North Coast 500 brand. It was great to hear the range of activities taking place on the ground around the area, and in particular it was good to hear of the moves being made within the industry to bring hirers of campervans/ motorhomes together to agree codes of conduct to guide customer experiences and behaviours in often fragile rural environments. I also met last week with the inspiring group of businesses in the Dornoch Focus Group, where place-based tourism may offer useful lessons for newer Development Trusts in Thurso and John O’ Groats amongst other local settlements. And this week I was invited by the Board of Caithness Chamber of Commerce to join representatives of the Venture North tourism cooperative in a session to look at how best we can maximise the opportunities associated with the increased visibility of our area in the tourism market.
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:
STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith was in Caithness again last week, and I was able to sit down with him and local Trades Union/ Dounreay Stakeholder Group colleagues to discuss current issues and opportunities for the area. Grahame, who currently sits on the Strategic Board established as part of the Scottish Government’s Enterprise & Skills Review, has been a consistent supporter of efforts to raise awareness of the economic challenges and opportunities in the north, and it was good to hear him talk about the focused, coordinated outlook he sees when he visits. It was especially good to be part of this meeting, as Grahame also helped celebrate the 40-plus years of TU service in the Highlands that has been given by Derrick Milnes. Derrick is currently Vice-chair of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, and sits on the CNSRP Advisory Board.