District will benefit if we all work together

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Working together to benefit the district was the overriding message from this year’s Business Falkirk annual conference.

The Ineos-sponsored event in the Macdonald Inchyra Hotel at Polmont attracted around 120 delegates.

They heard from Mary Pitcaithly, Falkirk Council chief executive, who admitted that times had been tough recently as the local authority had made savings of £100 million in the last ten years and must find a further £20 million for next year.

She urged businesses to participate in the consultation process and give their thoughts on proposed cuts and detail services they value the most.

However, she also announced the launch of www.investfalkirk.com, a new inward investment website to promote the area.

John McNally, Ineos Grangemouth CEO, then highlighted the £450 million his company had invested in the district, which he said demonstrated a “long term commitment” to its site.

He said: “We are working hard to ensure a sustainable future at Grangemouth. Our new business HQ and ethane supply project are testament to that commitment as is our clearing of old and outdated equipment and buildings that will pave the way for new investment.”

The prospects for growth in the chemicals sector was then reinforced by Julia Brown, head of Scottish Enterprise Life Sciences & Chemicals division.

Professor David Bell of Stirling University discussed the impact of Brexit – and gave the welcome news that there had been “no post-Brexit meltdown”. He said the immediate shocks had been limited so far to the weakening pound which may see inflation rising above Bank of England targets.

However, he added the longer term impacts will only start to become clear as UK/EU negotiating positions are set out.

Steve Dunlop, Scottish Canals chief executive, spoke of the district’s renaissance after having the confidence to take forward key projects such as the Kelpies, Helix Park and Falkirk Wheel in the face of economic challenges.

He gave a commitment that Scottish canals would continue to invest in the area, including at Tamfourhill and Rosebank.

The importance of tourism to the area was reinforced by Malcolm Roughead, CEO of VisitScotland. He the industry now employs over 3800 in the Falkirk area and generates £51.9 million, urging tourism businesses in the area to sign up to visitscotland.com.

Drawing the conference to a close, Baillie Joan Paterson, depute leader of Falkirk Council said: “Falkirk has come so far over the last ten years and we are on the cusp of something very significant for the district and its communities – we can make our area a prime international location for chemical sciences, for new energy and for tourism.

“We are asking the Government for the support and resources to make that happen and need the support of our entire business community to achieve it.”