Caithness & North Sutherland has a vibrant business community covering a wide range of key sectors and is set to experience significant growth opportunities in a number of these over the coming decades.
Caithness and North Sutherland has an outstanding capability in the energy sector and an impressive track record of working across a range of energy industries.
The area is rich in potential, has close proximity to key energy assets in the offshore wind and oil & gas markets, and has a highly-skilled and dedicated supply chain.
The region has a long association with the nuclear industry, which has helped it to build up a valuable and unique skills base (see Supply Chain and Skills for more information). With the decommissioning of the Dounreay nuclear site currently expected to continue until 2034, and commitments given by major operators in the sector to commit to future investment in the region, nuclear is set to play a key role in the region’s economy for the foreseeable future.
Future opportunities in the nuclear sector include the export of skills from the region, and experts from the region have already advised on the cleanup of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan and the Ignalina facility in Lithuania.
These plans have developed further, with a collaboration between a ‘Team UK’ consisting of experts from Cavendish Nuclear, Jacobs and Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd using expertise gained from decommissioning the Dounreay Prototype Fast Reactor to support the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in decommissioning of the Monju reactor.
While predominantly focused on the civil nuclear industry, Caithness & North Sutherland is also home to NRTE Vulcan, which operated for many years as a testing facility for Pressurised Water Reactors for nuclear submarines. Discussions are ongoing about the decommissioning of the site and this is expected to generate significant opportunities in years to come
Finance & Business Services
Caithness and North Sutherland is well-known for being a centre of excellence in finance and business services, with a strong public sector giving the area a rich seam of expertise in finance and administration, and major national businesses in the sector choosing the region as a base.
Caithness and North Sutherland has a strong pool of experienced and talented people working in financial services. There is also a breadth of knowledge and skills in administration and finance through the area’s strong public sector.
Among these is the the Equiniti office at Thurso Business Park, which administers pensions for nuclear industry clients including the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Combined Nuclear Pension Plan (CNPP).
In addition, the region is home to numerous smaller financial services businesses, covering everything from accountancy to wealth management. Caithness Chamber of Commerce represents many of these businesses and has lists of the key finance and professional services businesses in the region.
This is an exciting time for tourism in Caithness and Sutherland, with the success of the North Coast 500 route bringing a significant number of new national and international visitors to the region and highlighting some of the hidden gems the region has to offer.
The area has seen a surge in and exciting tourism initiatives and businesses to meet the growing demand, from bespoke tour companies to eco-friendly glamping offerings.
Some of the key initiatives and developments are highlighted below.
The iconic tourist destination of John O’Groats, situated at the northernmost tip of the Scottish mainland, has undergone significant redevelopment and investment in recent years.
Redevelopment began in 2012 with a £6.5m joint investment from Natural Retreats (now Together Travel) and Heritage GB, delivering a complete remodelling and restoration of the iconic John O’Groats House Hotel and the construction of 23 state-of-the-art eco-friendly self-catering lodges.
The community-led John O’Groats Development Trust has since been set up to develop and promote the location further, improving amenities and opportunities for the benefit of businesses, inhabitants and visitors.
John O’Groats has also seen a resurgence in business development, in particular with the ambitious plans from John O’Groats Brewery to invest £250,000 in creating a brewery, tasting room and visitor centre at the Last House.
Food and Drink
Caithness and North Sutherland has long had a reputation as a top producer of quality food and drink, with a clean natural environment and access to high quality local ingredients.
A supportive business environment has helped a significant number of local food and drink producers start up and grow into national and international markets, and has also attracted inward investment to the region from companies like Shore Seaweed.
The first step in producing quality food products is access to the right ingredients and this is something that Caithness and Sutherland can offer in spades. From Mey Selections beef to fish and seafood freshly landed at local harbours, producers in the region can access quality ingredients on their doorstep.
The region plays home to a number of highly-regarded and award-winning food producers. These range from Thurso-based baker Reids of Caithness, which supplies award-winning bakery products to worldwide markets, to Caithness Smokehouse, a multiple Great Taste award winner.
Hotels and restaurants in Caithness also offer an array of local tastes and flavours to dazzle the palate, from fresh-caught seafood to award-winning Caithness beef and lamb – see more in the Eating Out and Socialising section of the website.