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HIE investigates impact of community business in the Highlands and Islands

26 September 2011

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is investigating the role of community run businesses - in a bid to see how the wider Scottish economy might benefit.

HIE, which has a unique role as a social and economic development agency, has for over 40 years recognised the importance of social enterprise to the economy. Social enterprises function to generate profits like any other business but, in addition, they have social purpose which is at the very heart of what they do, and the profits they make are all reinvested towards achieving that purpose.

A strong and expanding social enterprise sector is a key priority for HIE. And to ensure that social enterprises are provided with the support they need to grow and to explore the niche markets unique to the region, HIE has commissioned GEN, an independent economic and social research consultancy, to carry out a profile of the sector.

Fiona Robb of HIE commented: "Social enterprises can be very different in purpose and activity. One might reinvest income into community development projects; another may support a vulnerable workforce; others provide lifeline services that might otherwise not exist in remote communities. One thing they all share is the important role they play in our Highlands and Islands communities - socially and economically.

"As public resources are stretched, social enterprises like all businesses are looking at how they can be more independent, resilient and sustainable. This includes the need to maximise the use of their assets and to find new income generating opportunities

"The study we have commissioned will provide a comprehensive database containing up to date information on the scale and nature of the social enterprise sector in the HIE area. Our hope is that by sharing what is happening we will highlight new opportunities and ways to maximise income generation. It will also help inform policy for HIE as we work to take the sector forward."

The field work is scheduled to take place between September and November 2011 and the study is due to be completed in January 2012.

For further information contact: Fiona Robb, third sector innovation manager HIE, (01463) 244 377.

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Clive Sheppard 26/10/2011

I am encouraged to read the above statement, but have to say that in Sutherland we are hearing comments about HIE being careful about perceptions of "state aid" and unfair competition. Because a small group of disgruntled business people have made protests based on misinformation and predujice concerning the wonderful and innovative take over by the community of the Fishermens' Mission in Lochinver, HIE advisors are stating that they now are very sensitive about giving grant aid to emerging social enterprises which could be "perceived" to be in competition with existing businesses. This in a fragile area where creating new employment and training opportunties is a priority if we are to retain our young folk in the area and make our communities sustainable for the future.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 28/10/2011

Thanks for your comment Clive. Consideration of state aid and displacement issues always form part of HIE's due diligence procedures for all applications from both businesses and social enterprises. The Mission project is highly regarded by HIE, and the steering group is keen to collaborate with all local businesses and social enterprises for the benefit of all.

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