Year end statistics from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) show it approved up to £63.2 million of investment in 489 projects by 313 clients during the year — with a total value of £140.5 million.
The figures show that businesses and communities supported by the agency in 2022-23 are set to create or retain more than 1,400 jobs across the region over the next three years, including 159 in fragile areas.
“Companies in technology and advanced engineering contributed most to employment measures (60%, 850.5 jobs),” said HIE.
“Examples include Russwood Ltd in Newtonmore (59 FTE jobs) and The Apprentice Store Ltd in Inverness (41 FTE jobs). Jobs supported in this sector also had the highest average annual salary of £42,317.
“The figures, which are subject to review by Audit Scotland ahead of HIE’s annual report in December, show that businesses supported by the agency are forecast to see turnover rise by a total of £682.7m as a result, while international sales will grow by £48.8m.
“The agency’s support for social enterprises, meanwhile, is forecast to bring about an £8.5m uplift in the social economy.
“Community projects supported include Tobermory Harbour Association Aros Park development (£240k), South Islay Development community hub and visitor facilities (£354k), and Tiree Community Enterprise business units development (£395k).
“HIE also supported the Isle of Kerrera Development Trust community hub development (£154k), and the Mull and Iona Community Trust development of Ulva Ferry waterfront (£250k).
“Nearly a quarter (24%) of HIE funding was invested in fragile areas, where 13% of the region’s population is based.
“The agency helped to attract six inward investment projects that together supported 143 jobs. Four of these were from existing investors accounting for 59 jobs, including Cuantec (three) and Saputo (20) in Argyll and the Islands.
“Two of them, Rain in the Outer Hebrides (nine jobs) and Cabot Highland in the Inner Moray Firth area (75 jobs), were from new investors.”
HIE chief executive Stuart Black said: “The Highlands and Islands region has so many strengths and natural advantages that give us real grounds for optimism as we move forward.
“Notable examples are around energy transition and net zero, space and life sciences, as well as our more longstanding sectors such as tourism, food and drink and creative industries.
“Last year we were able to support many great projects that capitalise on these opportunities. Our new five-year strategy, due for publication in the coming weeks, will build on this progress and on our region’s contribution to Scotland’s economy.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, businesses and communities across the region and beyond in making that happen.”
Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray said: “These positive figures highlight the importance of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in contributing to a wellbeing economy by creating new jobs and further investment.
“The Scottish Government is investing a significant amount to help the Highlands and Islands to thrive, capitalising on their huge assets, including initiatives such as the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and the four City and Regional Growth Deals worth £242.5 million, which aim to create nearly 3,000 new jobs.”