As the final stages of work take place on the £3.8 million community centre for Wick, Highlands and Islands Enterprise's most senior staff have enjoyed a sneak preview.
As part of a two day programme of meetings with ambitious Caithness and Sutherland businesses and social enterprises, the HIE Board visited the Pulteney Centre due to open in the new year and paid tribute to the achievements of the Pulteneytown People's Project (PPP).
PPP was established by the community over eight years ago and as well as providing a range of vital community services it has attracted millions into the local economy. HIE has been working with PPP since its earliest days and is one of the funders of the community centre visited yesterday. (Wednesday).
Alex Paterson Chief Executive of HIE, said: "PPP is a remarkable example of what can be achieved when communities, the public and the private sector work together."
Two community companies, both registered charities, make up PPP. Pulteneytown People's Project takes the lead in terms of broader regeneration, training, capacity building, child care and youth work while Homelink has a more particular focus on delivering floating housing support primarily for young people and families.
Mr Paterson added: "Increasingly, both organisations have recognised the value in adopting a business approach with regard to the delivery of services and have now firmly established themselves as social enterprises of substance."
PPP are once again finalists in the national SURF awards and earlier this year Homelink were runners-up in the prestigious Scottish Care Awards.
Katrina McNab, Chief Executive Officer of PPP, said: "We are delighted to welcome the HIE Board to the Centre. Getting to this point has been a lot of hard work but when we open the Centre it will be a great public asset for Wick and the wider county. It is purpose-built to meet lots of different needs; leisure, arts, sport, and business. It will allow services and activities which on their own in a rural community are not viable, to become viable because they are in a multi purpose setting."
The centre build and related development support has involved extensive partnership working. As well as HIE these include, the Big Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Fund, Social Investment Scotland, The Highland Council, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), The Scottish Government's Wider Role Fund accessed through Albyn Housing Society, Landfill Communities Fund, SCORE Environment Fund, Community Energy Scotland and The Robertson Trust.
Mr Paterson said: "The Pulteney Centre is looking fantastic. It will have a significant impact on the wider economy and social infrastructure of the area. It offers exciting new facilities for everyone and will also allow PPP to develop their activities."
As well as the Chief Executive, the HIE Board team in Caithness and Sutherland includes HIE Chair Willy Roe and Board members Craig Spence, Mary Bownes and Jim Royan.
Their two day itinerary includes a panel meeting with Sutherland businesses in Dornoch discussing how the public sector can help remove barriers and increase growth. Today, (Thursday) the day starts with a business breakfast in Caithness Horizons arranged by the Chamber of Commerce, followed by meetings with ABSL Power Solutions and then the UHI Centre for Energy and the Environment.