Ambitious plans to use military investment as a springboard to transform Moray into a manufacturing and engineering “powerhouse” has been unveiled.
A 10-year economic strategy for the region was launched yesterday to try and tap into opportunities expected to be created from the huge investment at RAF Lossiemouth.
Warnings have been issued that the region faces a projected decline in the number of people of working age and a decrease in the amount of jobs.
But industry leaders believe the targets set by the Moray Economic Partnership document can help the area to flourish despite its challenges.
Donna Chisholm, area manager for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, stressed it was important to “set the bar high” to create opportunities for all residents.
She said: “Moray is bursting with so many great companies. There are so many layers from big global brands to small enterprises.
“There is a negative attitude that Moray is stuck in the middle of Aberdeen and Inverness – but that’s a huge opportunity too with nearly 500,000 on our doorstep.”
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Nearly 1,000 extra military and civilian posts are expected to be created at RAF Lossiemouth over the next two years due to the £400 million expansion required to welcome the P-8 Poseidon squadron as well as a new £100 million training base for Boeing.
The move is expected to create an influx of skilled people to the region to boost local firms.
Meanwhile, a £200 million growth deal bid is currently being negotiated with the Scottish and UK governments to develop the construction and food and drink industries by creating a new gas pipeline in the region as well as a £14 million factory to safeguard manufacturing jobs.
Graham Leadbitter, chairman of Moray Economic Partnership, believes the military investment will unlock further opportunities alongside the proposals.
He said: “The investment being made by Boeing shouldn’t be underestimated.
“In the past we have had people trained by the RAF and work there. Boeing wants to open up a skills pipeline directly from schools, Moray College UHI and other parts of Scotland.
“We have a lot of emerging sectors though, including digital technology.”
Yesterday, Tony Elliott, human resources director for Robertson Group, revealed just 1% of the firm’s frontline construction staff is female.
More opportunities for women, increasing the amount of qualified staff, retaining 16 to 29 year olds in Moray and encouraging small businesses to have more than nine employees have all been set as objectives for the next 10 years.
Senior officers at RAF Lossiemouth said the influx of people as a result of the huge expansion of the base, which would increase its annual economic impact on the region to nearly £120 million, could also help address shortfalls in teaching and health posts.
Group Captain Jim Walls, the station commander, said: “RAF Lossiemouth makes a tremendous contribution to the security and prosperity of Moray. All 2,300 employees here look forward to helping build the economy.”