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Weekly Update, 19th September 2011

Together with Simon Coles in his role as Inward Investment manager on secondment to HIE I met with two representatives from a major UK company seeking to develop its involvement in the renewables industry. We were able to show them several key local facilities, and introduce them to several local companies.

A small Leadership Group met this week to progress the delivery of the “Ambitious for Tourism – Caithness & North Sutherland” programme. Caithness Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and North Highland Tourism were all represented, giving the programme led by HIE a powerful industry focus. Detailed actions are to be written for agreement and wider dissemination.

I also met this week with David Whiteford, Chairman of the North Highland Initiative, to discuss the continuing evolution of the NHI, and opportunities for developing further local economic outputs from its activities.

Enabling Activities:

Public sector partners met in the margins of the Scottish Renewables Marine Conference this week to agree the value of pursuing a Marine Energy Park designation for the Pentland Firth area, following work dome on the issue by John Thurso MP. I had a further meeting later in the week with a representative of Orkney Islands Council to firm up details of the proposed Park.

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:

  • In advance of his appearance at the Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner tonight (Friday) I was able, with a small group of colleagues from HIE, Highland Council, DSRL, Caithness Chamber and Dounreay Stakeholder Group, to spend an hour with John Thurso MP and the Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. We were able to highlight the way our Partnership works on key issues, and update him on the impacts of decommissioning on the area economy. We also focused on key current issues such as the impact of “transmission charging” on the development of the marine renewables industry.
  • The launch of Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s “Caithness Oil & Gas Directory 2012” during its attendance at Offshore Europe earlier this month is covered in the John O’ Groat Journal . The initiative was delivered through Invest Caithness, which is co-funded by HIE and the NDA – you can read the original press release at Also in oil & gas news, an article in the Groat speculating that production at the onshore oil facility in Lybster could begin as early as 2012, following successful test drilling that showed potential for up to 1900 barrels a day to be produced from the well.
  • The Caithness Courier covers KP Technology’s success at the SCDI Highlands and Islands Business Excellence awards in Inverness. Professor Iain Baikie’s company, based in Wick, now has a range of international customers and partners, and was recognised by SCDI for excellence in research and innovation. The award was presented by Stewart Stevenson MSP, the Minister for Climate Change & Environment.
  • Local coverage also of fashion designer Jennifer Easton whose JAED business was runner up in the Prince’s Youth Business Trust Highland Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition. Jennifer won the Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s George Bruce award for Young Entrepreneur earlier this year, and has moved into business premises in Wick High Street. Her business received start-up support from Business Gateway and PSYBT.
  • Coverage in the John O’ Groat Journal of local companies at this week’s Scottish Renewables Marine Conference in Inverness. Caithness Renewables’ Louise Smith and associate Sandra MacCaughey are quoted, and the article also refers to strong interest in Mey-based Energy Hunt and Thurso’s Environmental Research Institute. (not online)
  • Also interesting to note that the first purpose-built supply vessel for the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters marine energy sector docked in Gills harbour this week. The £3.5M multi-cat is owned by Orkney firm Leask Marine. Gills harbour Ltd hopes that this will be the first of a number of vessels that will use the harbour as the industry develops in the coming years. (Not online)