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Enterprise Trust Reports On A Successful Year Supporting Highland Businesses (20/05/09)
At its annual report to The Highland Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee on 20 May, Highland Opportunity Limited (HOL) was able to describe another year of solid support to Highland businesses, together with recent major developments in enterprise support. HOL is the Council owned Enterprise Trust with a remit to assist local businesses to start up and grow, to create or preserve jobs and make European trade connections.
In 2008-9 over 50 businesses were assisted with over £600,000 of investment. 259 jobs were supported through investment and a further 84 jobs through a wage subsidy scheme aimed at taking people out of unemployment. Another 250 families were assisted on a path from deprivation into education, training and employment through the Working for Families project.
The new Business Gateway service was introduced by HOL on schedule at 1 April into Highland and Moray regions. This has been a great success with over 305 businesses receiving advice and support in the first six weeks of operations. Business training workshops are being filled and even oversubscribed across the region.
Chairman of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee, Councillor Ian Ross was very pleased that the Business Gateway had started so well. He said: “My congratulations to David Owen and his colleagues at HOL and the excellent work of our Council officers in ensuring a top rate service can be offered. As a Council we have actively embraced Business Gateway and are fully committed to its continuing success. In HOL we have a well established and respected delivery mechanism for Business Gateway, one which is responsive to changing needs at this difficult economic time. We are also able to go beyond the normal provision with the other support available through HOL and of course we have the added bonus of the new Highland Business Growth Fund. I firmly believe we are now better placed to provide support than many other areas of the country.”
Councillor Helen Carmichael, Chairman of HOL said: “We are very proud that we have achieved such a smooth and seamless transfer of this very important advice and information service. The new drop-in centre on Castle Street in Inverness is proving to be a big bonus and it is really encouraging that the demand for our training workshops has been so high. At a period of economic challenges, it is more important than ever before that we are able to provide a first class service to new and existing businesses across the Highlands.”
HOL’s new £1.4 million Highland Business Growth Fund, supported by £560,000 of European Regional Development Fund money is being taken up enthusiastically by eligible businesses across the Highlands who can access interest free loans to help them through the credit crunch. Some new businesses can also access start up grants.
HOL’s Manager David Owen commented, “I am very pleased with HOL’s performance. This past year has seen major growth and diversification for the Trust and has been one of the most successful in recent memory for the support to Highland businesses and people.”