Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) chairman, Lorne Crerar, has hailed “good progress” by the development agency in the 12 months following a Scottish Government climb down on plans to axe its board.
As HIE released its performance figures and annual accounts for the year to the end of March, Mr Crerar said the organisation was focusing on “collaborative actions” agreed by the new Scotland-wide Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board to improve how agencies work together.
HIE approved £50.1 million grant-in-aid for new projects in 2017/18, which, the agency said, along with its other activities, would help create or retain 981 jobs, 139 of them in “fragile” areas. The organisation received almost £70m funding from the Scottish Government and a further £15.7m to fund new broadband infrastructure as well as £1.1m from the EU.
The agency said turnover among businesses and social enterprises it supported was forecast to increase by £101m over three years and international sales by £40m.
Mr Crerar said: “The current challenges and uncertainties facing industries, businesses and commercial growth are well documented. The progress we have seen in the Highlands and Islands during last financial 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. I am delighted we have been able to make such good progress and look forward to working with partners and clients to continue to grow the region’s economy.”
He continued: “A key focus for us is to inform and deliver the collaborative actions agreed by the new Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board to improve how agencies work together. We will also build on the work commenced by the National Council of Rural Advisers on developing the rural economy.”