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Caithness.org News Bulletins 2003

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The Highlands and Islands Enterprise network (HIE) has just published its twelfth annual report, covering the agency's activities during the period from 1st April 2002 to 31st March 2003.

The 104-page document charts a highly successful year for the enterprise network, which met or exceeded all of its key targets.

Highlights included supporting the creation or retention of 2,456 jobs, enabling a further 1,552 people to gain a job with training through Modern Apprenticeships, helping to start up a record 714 new businesses, and assisting 39 community land purchases.

Writing in the report, chief executive Sandy Cumming re-affirms the HIE network's commitment to secure progress for fragile areas of the Highlands and Islands in particular.

"Our main challenge, as I have said before, is to enable the benefits of progress to be experienced in every part of the Highlands and Islands, not confined to prosperous centres," Mr Cumming states.

"Despite the general upward trend, some localities remain affected by above-average unemployment, declining population and lack of opportunity. These include some of our most fragile communities - such as parts of the Western Isles, the Kintyre peninsula, east Sutherland and several small islands.

"Halting and reversing a trend of decline might seem a daunting prospect.  However, we have already witnessed - and played a part in - a transformation which has affected much of the Highlands and Islands.  There is no reason to suppose that, in the years ahead, we cannot carry this success through to our most challenging areas.

"Some key developments in 2002-03 indicate we are moving in the right direction.  We assisted a record number of new business starts.  The number of jobs supported with our help was up by 30 percent.  Our Modern Apprenticeship programme enabled more than 2,500 people to gain employment with training - another record.  Careers Scotland, the new all-age guidance service which is part of the HIE network in the Highlands and Islands, made a confident start."

Copies of the report and full accounts can be obtained in printed format from Highlands and Islands Enterprise or online at www.hie.co.uk