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Extra Caithness Funding Starts To Make A Difference

28th July 2008

Extra funding made available by the Scottish Government to assist the economic regeneration of Caithness, is being spent across a rigorous programme of activities driven by Highlands and Island Enterprise (HIE).

Twelve million pounds of additional funding was promised to the area for commitment to projects between 2007-2010.

An update by HIE area manager Roy Kirk, shows that 1.6m has already been allocated with some ambitious plans now in the pipeline.

Mr Kirk explained: "In order to ensure this money is spent wisely we joined with The Highland Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Scottish Government to agree a 50-point action plan.

"With this now in place we are making real headway in achieving our agreed objectives. Progress to date includes promoting opportunities for tidal energy generation from the Pentland Firth and we have already hosted visits from 30 potential inward investors keen to examine their possible future involvement.

"We have contributed substantially to the Plan-it scheme which assists staff at Dounreay to consider career alternatives, and provided funds for the promotion of the food and drink sectors including last year's successful Taste of Caithness event."

Mr Kirk also reported that progress had been made on tourism and research work, "Specific financial and staff resource will be applied to increasing tourism, and we have already made moves to rejuvenate the John o' Groats destination experience. We plan to work on tasks informed by good research and have already begun initiatives based on a study to inform the retail group in Caithness."

Business infrastructure is being strengthened through projects such as the piloting of incubation facilities at Forss Business Park, while assistance has been provided to companies with high growth plans, such as the support provided recently to BT for their 'homeshoring' project in Caithness.

Mr Kirk added: "We continue to prepare marketing material and to help promote the area through supporting events such as the Caithness Conference. We have also been pleased to lead the set up of the regeneration partnership, establishing the groups and channels through which it works and have provided the budget for its four-strong staff across the funding period."

He concluded: "Since the additional funding was announced, we have been working to create the right systems to ensure this investment achieves maximum effect. Now these are in place we are working up projects that will provide a good return for the area.

"These may include projects such as a potential Centre for Energy and the Environment; the development of Scrabster harbour and Wick airport and building on the area's natural advantages in the food and drink, tourism, engineering and energy sectors.

"We are committed to delivering a sustainable economy beyond the decommissioning of the Dounreay nuclear plant. We are counting on the support of all the stakeholders in this area which includes every one of its residents and we intend to share news of our joint progress regularly over the coming months and years.

See more about Caithness Regeneration at www.caithness.org/regeneration/index.htm

 

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