The fortunes of Fort William are on the up thanks to a £120million investment from Liberty British Aluminium (LBA).
LBA owners Gupta Family Group (GFG) Alliance bought the aluminium smelter in Fort William in 2016, securing 170 jobs. They also plan to manufacture alloy wheels from the site, providing transformational change for Lochaber. Its vision is to create 400 jobs by 2020 and hundreds, or even thousands, more in the supply chain.
Instead of just making aluminium and shipping it elsewhere, the company intends to build a factory to produce alloy wheels and other components to supply the UK automotive industry. The company's multi-million pound investment will go towards upgrading the smelter and developing a new adjacent plant to manufacture alloy wheels from the liquid aluminium produced on site.
Initial intentions are to deliver around two million wheels every year which is around a quarter of the wheels required for the UK motor sector. Full planning permission for the factory was granted in January 2018 and production is expected to begin in early 2020.
An investment of this scale doesn't come without its challenges with political leadership necessary. The Scottish Government has been involved from the outset with Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, chairing the Lochaber Delivery Group.
Representatives from the Scottish Government, HIE, Highland Council and Liberty meet quarterly along with other key stakeholders to discuss progress.
One of the biggest investments in Lochaber for decades, this investment truly has the potential to transform the area.