A summary of the organisation’s year-end figures shows turnover among supported businesses and social enterprises in Shetland will increase by £1.8 million as a result of HIE’s investments.
As part of Scotland’s Economic Strategy priority of internationalisation, these investments anticipate international sales growth of £600,000 in Shetland.
Positive developments this year include an innovative trial mussel hatchery at the NAFC marine Centre in Scalloway, in which HIE invested £460,000 towards its establishment. Shetland accounts for 80 percent of mussel production in Scotland and the hatchery will test the commercial feasibility of producing spat (baby mussels) which could offer the sector huge growth opportunities in the future.
HIE was a key sponsor of the Shetland Food and Drink Fair in October which saw the promotion and celebration of world class produce from Shetland. The organisation has also been engaging with food and drink producers to help set up an industry group.
In further investments, in delivering its food and drink remit, HIE invested almost £100,000 in The Shetland Distillery Company which combines support for marketing and promotion as well as for production expansion. It has allowed the company to recruit a graduate through the HIE-supported ScotGrad programme, to help the business further grow its portfolio.
This year also saw HIE undertake a study to address demand for accommodation for the sector which highlighted a need for more housing and accommodation for short term workers to support growth in the economy.
Shetland has been at the forefront of Creative Industries, and this year, HIE supported the establishment of a University of the Highlands and Islands’ Chair of Creative Industries. HIE’s assistance of £250,000 towards the £2.8 million project will help support the vibrant creative sector in both Shetland and across the region.
Shetland’s four account managed communities continue to gain confidence and move towards sustainability through a number of community developments. Fair Isle Community Association recently recruited a local development officer with support from HIE, to drive development in the island. Fair Isle now joins Unst, Fetlar and Northmavine as account managed communities developing and implementing plans for growth.
Fifty eight percent of households and businesses in Shetland can access the new high-speed fibre broadband network. People in more than 6,500 premises can order in a number of areas including Hamnavoe, Lerwick, Voe and Weisdale. Roll-out continues and work has already started to connect others including Brae, Gott, Skellister, Vidin, and Walls. The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, being led in the region by HIE, is investing £146m in a new fibre optic infrastructure.
Furthermore, Fair Isle Broadband Company has been awarded £247,000 by HIE’s Community Broadband Scotland to deliver superfast broadband to the 33 properties on the island which are not covered by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project roll-out.
Rachel Hunter, HIE area manager in Shetland, said: “Despite the impact of the oil and gas downturn and the challenges this has presented for many businesses, Shetland is well placed for future economic growth. Unemployment remains very low. While the economic challenges remain, I am optimistic about the future and look forward to working with businesses, sectors and community groups to continue making progress.
HIE chairman Professor Lorne Crerar, said: “The current challenges facing industries, businesses and commercial growth worldwide are well documented. The progress we have seen in the Highlands and Islands over the past year, in the context of those challenges, is testament to the superb levels of ambition, entrepreneurship and innovation that thrives in businesses, social enterprises and communities across our region. HIE’s role is to foster those qualities and invest in initiatives that stimulate and enable growth.”
Details of HIE’s progress will be published in the organisation’s annual report later in the year.