A multi-million pound business incubator to give entrepreneurs and social enterprises a jump start has opened in Clackmannanshire.
The HUB, which occupies a £4million development in the centre of Alloa, offers a customised Centre for Social, Environmental and Entrepreneurial Activities.
The joint venture between Alloa Community Enterprises and the Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface (CTSI) provides more than 26,500 square feet of retail, office, warehouse, meeting space, exhibition room and workshop accommodation, as well as one-stop advice shop for start ups, volunteers, businesses and community organisations.
George Reid, Chairman of ACE and Lord Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, said the HUB will support the Wee County's 500 voluntary organisations, providing them with accommodation, workshop and meeting spaces.
“Voluntary organisations are the lifeblood of this county and country and, without them – particularly in these hard times of cuts all round – we would not be a caring, sharing society.
“The HUB will provide short term incubator space for emergent social enterprises. It will be a base for the development of programmes aimed at supporting the long-term unemployed and those with learning difficulties. Its splendid new retail space will showcase goods donated to ACE which, through supported employment, will be refurbished by local people trained in carpentry, the repair of electrical goods, and in soft furnishing and upholstery.”
According to the UK Government social enterprises, co-operatives and mutuals which plough profits back into organisations and communities is now worth over £20-billion to the economy.
ACE, which was started 22 years ago with a grant of just £1,000, has grown into an organisation with an annual turnover of more than £1 million pounds, employs over 40 people and diverts almost 20,000 tons of waste from landfill.
Officially opening the Hub, local MSP Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Housing, said the third sector, comprising of social enterprises, voluntary organisations and community organisations, was making a direct impact on the growth of Scotland's economy, the well-being of its citizens and improvement of public services.
“The sector has an extremely important role in making a more successful country with opportunities for everybody to flourish through achieving sustainable economic growth.”
He said that with public sector spending not expected to return to 2010 levels in real terms for another 16 years the Scottish Government is committed to developing a capable, sustainable and enterprising third sector.
“The third sector will play an increasingly important role in helping to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society in Clackmannanshire and across Scotland. That's because third sector organisations, including social enterprises, are often the best organisations to engage individuals and also to get the public sector funds that are available to sectors that are otherwise hard to reach.”
Malcolm McArdle, Managing Director of ACE and Chairman of CTSI, said: “The HUB has been specially developed to become the volunteer and social enterprise focus for Clackmannanshire. It already houses three organisations employing 41 staff and 29 volunteers.
“We have had a tremendous amount of support, especially from Marshall Construction and others, to make the HUB a reality. Already there is a real buzz about the place with CTSI having signed up 431 third sector organisations as members, registered 65 new volunteers and identified 29 volunteering opportunities for seven different organisations in the space of a few weeks.”
Robert Walters, Chief Officer of the CTSI, said: “The opening of the HUB is a fantastic moment for the CTSI. In only a few months we have covered a tremendous distance, establishing an excellent team of support and development staff to work with our partners, clients and individuals in supporting the third sector through volunteering. Clackmannanshire’s Interface has already been accepted as an exemplar by the Scottish Government Third Sector Team and Social Enterprise Scotland.”