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Caithness News Bulletins March 2003

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Highland Opportunity Limited (HOL), the Enterprise Trust for the Highland Area, is launching a new investment project aimed at the social sector of the Highland economy. Called the Community Enterprise Loan Fund, it will be launched at a conference being held in The Highland Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, on Friday 21st March, commencing at 2.00 p.m.

The purpose of the Fund is to provide access to loan finance for new or existing community businesses, where they are excluded by the mainstream bank lenders. The reasons might be, for example, buying equipment, improving property or increasing working capital. Any organisation which can provide or preserve a community service and generate an income stream is likely to be able to repay a loan. Professional business advice and aftercare support will be provided to loan clients to help them succeed.

The fund will be administered by a new HOL subsidiary company, specially incorporated for this task, called Highland Opportunity (Communities) Ltd.   Examples of possible beneficiaries are remote community lifeline services, business spin-offs from community land purchases, community centres, care groups, cultural and heritage societies, voluntary organisations and local charitable trusts.

Finance for the project has been provided by the Highland Council, Social Investment Scotland and the European Regional Development Fund.  Councillor Sandy Park, Provost of Nairn and Chairman of HOL will open the conference. Speakers will include Scott Anderson, Chief Executive of Social Investment Scotland, and David Owen, Company Manager of HOL.  Councillor Park commented: "The remote and dispersed nature of many communities throughout the Highlands has resulted in a heavy reliance on social economy organisations to provide essential local services. This is why I am delighted to welcome the introduction of the Community Enterprise Loan Fund, which will offer access to finance and business advice to complement the support currently available to the sector."

Ray Perman, chairman of Social Investment Scotland, said: Highland Opportunity Ltd has a solid track record of providing loans and business support to small and medium sized enterprises in the Highland region. The Community Enterprise Loan Fund will now allow Highland Opportunity to employ that expertise in terms of community finance.

"SIS is delighted to have played such a significant part in helping establish the fund and Im sure that the approach taken here can be followed in other parts of Scotland."

Community groups who want to attend the conference should contact Jane Gair, the Community Enterprise Officer, telephone 01463 702545.