Riverside Inverclyde, the urban regeneration company, celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. In that time, it has invested more than £75m in the area; combined with the work of key partners, the positive impact is being felt.
“We were created, in part, because of ‘market failure’,” said Andrew Bowman, head of business investment and operations, “but, alongside public sector investment, we are now beginning to see investment from the private sector as a result of what Inverclyde can now offer in terms of location, infrastructure, and skills.”
The company organises tours for representatives from key industry sectors. “Inverclyde is relatively young as a geographical entity,” said Bowman, “and the aim is to showcase the area to a wider audience. This is a great opportunity for businesses; not just for their own futures, but also for them to be an integral part of a real success story.”
Among the sectors in which Inverclyde believes it can excel are life sciences, food and drink, tourism, and digital.
International life science engineering firm Peak Scientific recently located a research and development hub at Kelburn Business Park. “Scotland’s life sciences sector is growing rapidly, with a turnover of £4bn and aims to double this by 2025,” said Bowman. “We feel that Inverclyde is uniquely placed to provide the facilities, infrastructure, transport links and skills required to help support this target.”
Kelburn was also the choice for production premises of The Start-Up Drinks Lab, which specialises in bringing craft sodas to market via its bespoke trial kitchen, and manufacturing and bottling facilities. The Lab, whose clients will cater for luxury hotels, venues, and retailers, is financially backed by the Scotmid Co-operative.
Bowman said businesses like The Lab complement its plans for ‘Baker Street’, Riverside Inverclyde’s new food and drink incubator, in Greenock, which will be completed next year. The first of its kind in Scotland, it forms part of Inverclyde’s bid to support the nation’s ambition to double the value of the food and drink sector to £30bn by 2030.
Riverside Inverclyde also launched Taste Inverclyde, a forum for manufacturers, restaurants, cafes, and farms to collaborate in creating products that can be sold across the UK and abroad. “The sector offers Inverclyde a fabulous opportunity to increase the manufacturing and production of local produce, offering a critical jobs and skills boost to the area,” said Bowman.
Tourism is another key sector for Inverclyde. Glasgow’s £1.13bn City Region Deal includes funding for three infrastructure projects across worth almost £27m; key amongst these is the multi-million development of Greenock Ocean Terminal. It will significantly expand the cargo and cruise facilities and see the creation of a state of the art visitor centre to give tourists a world class welcome to Scotland.
Private sector endorsement of Inverclyde as a place to invest was underlined by Clyde Blowers Capital’s purchase of Ferguson Shipbuilders in 2014 and the subsequent win by the company, renamed Ferguson Marine Engineering, of a £97m order to build two new duel-fuel ferries and another for a £12.3m hybrid ferry. Last year, a partnership between Peel Holdings and Riverside Inverclyde handed over the long-term operation of the James Watt Dock Marina at Greenock to an international firm experienced in maritime complexes.
Riverside Inverclyde also has ambitions for the area to be a pioneer in digital connectivity. With ‘smart’ cities proliferating, the regeneration company believes it can lead the way for Inverclyde to be on a par. Greenock is set to become a test-bed for how town centres can use digital to revitalise business, retail, hospitality, and tourism.
“We have a tradition of connectivity,” observes Bowman, “14 railway stations, the ocean terminal, we’re 20 minutes from Glasgow Airport, with great access to the M8, M74 and M6. Digital will be an added advantage. The beautiful coastal location, the skills of the people here and an affordable lifestyle makes it a pretty compelling prospect for any business looking to grow.”