Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) will be working harder than ever to draw additional investment into the region and to build on the region's natural advantages as a low carbon economy. The two messages featured prominently in the agency's latest three-year operating plan which has been approved by Scottish Government.
Publication of the plan follows news that the government has also approved HIE's bid for £3m of additional funding to upgrade facilities at the Arnish yard in the Outer Hebrides. This will enable the development agency to refurbish buildings at the yard which are currently leased to renewable energy manufacturer Burntisland Fabrication.
Chair of HIE William Roe said: “Like our business community we need to be fleet of foot and opportunistic in bidding for and securing benefits for the region. This latest investment in Arnish is excellent news for the Outer Hebrides which is playing an important part in Scotland's renewable energy sector. It signals our intention to explore other public, private, foundation and other potential funding streams over and above the budget we have to spend. It also serves to confirm that investment already made by the agency to position the region in the vanguard of the renewable energy sector will be sustained and complement progress towards a low carbon national economy.”
Charged by the Scottish Government to develop the region's economic and social potential, HIE is directing its resources to supporting growth ambitions among businesses and communities in every geographical location it covers.
The new plan shows that the agency will continue to work through three main delivery headings: Growth Businesses; Strengthening Communities and Regional Competitiveness. Under the first of these, growth plans agreed with businesses will be moving into the delivery stage, supporting businesses to innovate, expand their output, enter new markets and create more high paying jobs.
Strengthening Communities remains at the core of HIE's remit and, especially in the region's most fragile areas, it is committed to assisting social enterprises to provide key services, create employment opportunities and generate income through land/asset use. HIE staff will work with communities through its Growth at the Edge initiative to foster population growth and economic participation. With its own Gaelic Language Plan in place, the agency is focused on realising the commercial and business benefits which Gaelic can offer as an asset for the region.
Under the umbrella of Regional Competitiveness, HIE is seeking to work in partnership with others to create an environment for high value development. The provision of an accessible and affordable high quality telecommunications service and the transition to a low carbon economy will provide platforms for ambition. Sectorally, HIE will be accelerating its support for the renewable energy sector by building capacity, influencing policy direction, stimulating research and ensuring the availability of a skilled workforce.
The operating plan sets out specific targets for infrastructure investments including Inverness Campus; The European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney; wind turbine manufacturing operations at Machrihanish; the Argyll Marine Science Initiative; the Media Centre in Stornoway and the Mareel arts and creative industries centre in Lerwick, Shetland.
Investments in businesses which have the power to transform their local economies and contribute to Scotland's progress include HIE's support for BSW Timber in Fort William; the Kintyre Development Company and LifeScan Scotland in Inverness.
HIE will be maximising the benefits of its work by joining with partners to strengthen the impact of its contributions. This is particularly true of some of its broader strategic initiatives such as the Caithness and North Sutherland Action Plan; Moray 2020; the Hebrides Range Task Force; Shetland Decommissioning infrastructure, and Harris Tweed strategy.
Mr Roe explained: “HIE's grant-in-aid budget gives us around £50m of government funding to invest in the region in 2010-11, and there's a great deal we can achieve with that. At the same time, money is tight across the public sector, so will be single-mindedly pursuing additional funding sources for targeted investment in the region and will be aiming to deliver sustainable economic growth in all parts of the Highlands and Islands.
“HIE's Operating Plan 2010-13 sets out the means by which we can achieve this and is geared to giving our businesses and communities a clear commitment on how we will be assisting them to compete in the global marketplace. It is strongly aligned with the Government Economic Strategy and contributes directly to the Scottish Government's Economic Recovery Plan. This ensures the region's development is fully integrated with national objectives.”
At its meeting on 27 April, the HIE board also approved the agency's end-of-year performance review which showed that HIE had achieved efficiency savings and fully spent its 09/10 budget allocation despite the consequences of the economic slowdown on its remit. The report outlined the agency's contribution to the government's economic recovery programme, and its activities it trying to mitigate the effect of recession on local businesses.
The results indicate that HIE's work over the year is on course to generate £75m of added value to national growth over the next three years – only 12 per cent short of the target despite the recession. Through its account management model HIE is now working alongside 238 ambitious businesses to identify opportunities and overcome challenges. During the year HIE assisted well over 100 of these businesses to implement clear growth plans.
The Strengthening Communities team established an account management relationship with 73 social enterprises, half of which set out growth plans through the year. HIE's investment of just under £1m for social enterprises supported third party investment of a further £2.48m. In addition HIE joined with the European LEADER fund to deliver a scheme to help whole communities to develop in 20 of the region's most fragile areas and this has so far seen the recruitment of 11 local development officers.
HIE's Community Land Unit distributed £6.3m to 14 projects and provided support to 78 community organisations – over half of these in economically fragile areas. Its important work spanned policy dialogue, support for rural housing, community capacity building and for communities to manage the assets they have acquired.
There were four significant investments for Gaelic developments throughout the year and a range of support provided for crofting in partnership with the Scottish Crofting Foundation and the Crofters' Commission.
In line with national strategy, sectoral assistance was keenly focused on seven key sectors which show significant promise in the region with HIE providing strategic support to overcome the challenges presented to the development of the potentially lucrative renewables industry.
Mr Roe said the organisation had performed well during a complex year for the economy. “It was a difficult year for many businesses and communities and we responded by doing our best to ameliorate some of the acute problems that recession inevitably posed. Alongside that, we remained focused on our long-term strategy to support ambitious and innovative people to grow their operations, delivering well-paid jobs and economic growth for this region. I am confident that as we emerge from the global downturn, this places us well to drive forward high-value businesses and sectors which, supported by strong communities, will see all parts of the region achieve sustainable growth in the years to come.”
Both reports appear on HIE's website.
Note to Editors:
To download photographs of the Arnish yard and of Willy Roe to accompany this article, please click on the following http://www.scottishviewpoint.info/Arnish1
To see a copy of HIE's Operating Plan 2010-13 and end of year performance review click on: http://www.hie.co.uk/Operating-Plan-2010-2013.htm
HIE's role is to develop sustainable economic growth across the region. To achieve this it creates infrastructure for future investment, assists large and small businesses with growth aspirations and has a unique role strengthening communities, particularly in fragile areas.
HIE supports the growth ambitions of business and social enterprise clients by creating close working relationships in order to accelerate growth in turnover, profitability, wage levels, exports and therefore Gross Value Added (GVA) in the HIE area.
HIE also invests in transformational projects across the region to make the Highlands and Islands a more competitive and attractive place to live, work, study and grow.
The region covered by HIE takes in more than half of Scotland, and is home to around 440,000 people. See www.hie.co.uk for more information.
Contact: HIE Communications
Phone: 01463 244235