Tourism, food production and opportunities for the young are top aims for economic forum

Tourism, food production, and learning and local employment opportunities for young people have been targeted for action by Argyll and Bute’s new Economic Forum.

The forum, chaired by Nick Ferguson, chairman of Sky plc, agreed its priorities when it met this week for the first time.

The forum was set up by the council last year to drive forward economic progress in the area.

Mr Ferguson said: “This was a constructive initial meeting. Argyll and Bute is wonderfully diverse in its niche strengths and its opportunities for economic growth. The first challenge for the forum was therefore to identify where to focus our initial efforts.

“The forum brings together excellent minds, considerable business experience, and strong commitment to building a prosperous future for Argyll and Bute. Together we agreed an approach for action that will build on existing strengths and support key areas for growth.”

Explaining how the forum identified its priorities, he added:

Jobs bring people and prosperity. To create jobs we need to focus on Argyll and Bute’s best opportunities– where employment is already growing, where investment is being made, and where there is advantage in comparison to other areas.

Tourism and food production are two key opportunities for further development in Argyll and Bute.

To take up jobs, we need people of working age. Our third priority focus will therefore be on how to make Argyll and Bute a destination of choice for our young people.

A key part of this will be to consider how best to raise awareness among young people of the career options that exist here in Argyll and Bute, and to explore options for more closely linking education, training and local business opportunities.

  • The forum comprises:
  • Dr Tracey Shimmield, managing director, SAMS Research Services Ltd
  • Jane MacLeod, company secretary, M&K Macleod, and secretary of Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce
  • Alistair Barge, managing director, Gigha Halibut
  • Iain Jurgensen, general manager, Portavadie
  • Neil Wells, managing director, Lochs and Glens Holidays
  • John Forteith, general manager, Forteiths food distribution company
  • Cathy Craig, commercial director, Caledonian MacBrayne
  • Alex Paterson, chief executive, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Neil Francis, director, Scottish Enterprise
  • Argyll and Bute Council leader Dick Walsh and chief executive Sally Loudon,
  • Gordon Wales, director of financial management, and location director for Argyll and Bute, Scottish Government

The next steps for the forum will be to consider obstacles to progress in each area, and consider what if any additional research is required to support understanding of solutions that will deliver results.