There’s nothing more motivational than meeting people and visiting places, writes Stuart Black, chief executive of HIE


This year’s Highland Business Dinner is an ideal opportunity to celebrate all that has been achieved under the most challenging of circumstances.

It’s a reminder of everything that is great about living, working, studying and investing in our region. 

Being able to get out and about to face-to-face meetings, site visits, conferences and exhibitions, brings with it a sense of energy and optimism for our region’s future.

Just last week, I was at the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment, held in Edinburgh for the first time where it attracted more than 300 delegates.

We saw publication of Statistics from Scottish Development International (SDI), showing that more than 7,500 jobs were generated by inward investment in 2021-22.

Among them were German based APCOA Parking, which established a new processing centre in Dingwall, creating around 30 new jobs. 

The Scottish Salmon Company, owned by Faroese company Bakkafrost, secured £5m in public sector funding towards a four-year R&D project in Applecross, creating 30 rural jobs.  

Contracts secured by Capgemini, will see the company’s workforce grow to more than 800 people, making it one of the Highlands’ largest private sector employers.

I also attended the All Energy conference in Glasgow, featuring more than 40 exhibiting Highlands and Islands businesses. I met several offshore wind developers looking to invest in the Highlands and Islands. They see our region as vital to the future of energy production in Scotland, the UK, and Europe, particularly hydrogen. 

The opportunities in energy are significant. The recent ScotWind announcement will see investment and jobs in some of our most rural areas and will play a critical role in the decarbonisation of Scotland. 

We also have potential to host at least one of Scotland’s two green freeports, which would accelerate regeneration and create green jobs that complement the skills of the workforce. On a broader level it would help transform the country’s economy and make a huge contribution to meeting net zero targets. 

On a visit to Kishorn, I saw various energy projects underway currently supporting 140 jobs on site.

In Uist and Benebecula I met Stòras Uibhist to discuss their ambitious community development plans, and visited North Uist Distillery – an exciting young and growing business, with a real passion for fair work.

In Fort William I learned more about how the Advancing Manufacturing Centre is supporting SMEs to improve productivity. I visited the site of the new £4m Nevis Range Hotel and venue development that will create 50 jobs and provide much needed accommodation, hospitality and event facilities.

In Inverness we welcomed Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, to Inverness Campus. We introduced him to some of the innovative life science and technology companies and updated him on progress with the new Life Science Innovation Centre and the NHS National Treatment Centre, which are both under construction.

This week I’ve been in Orkney, visiting the European Marine Energy Centre, still the only accredited wave and tidal test centre for ocean energy in the world. EMEC has hosted 22 clients and 35 marine energy devices from 11 countries since it was established in 2004 – quite an amazing achievement. 

Getting out and about these past few weeks has reminded me of the energy and ambitions our businesses and community organisations have to develop and grow; despite the many challenges they still face.

For me and my colleagues there is no stronger motivation to champion our clients and our region.

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