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Business Insight Tuesday June 17 2014

Standing tall

Special economic report on Clackmannanshire

Tuesday June 17 2014 | the times


Business Insight

Feature: Clackmannanshire

County ticks all the boxes

Clackmannanshire is attracting major investment from a range of international companies that benefit from a vigorous and diversified economy, says Neil Clark


HE recent decision by US glass packaging multinational Owens-Illinois (O-I) to upgrade its plant in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, neatly illustrates the journey that the area has made in diversifying its economy. O-I’s £24.4 million investment will see the Alloa facility upgraded to better serve the Scotch whisky industry and other drinks customers. It builds on 260 years of glassmaking at the site, secures 600 jobs, and introduces new technology. Among the site’s new products are 1920s-style black glass bottles for Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition whisky being shipped internationally by Glasgow based distillers Edrington. Elaine McPherson, chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council, said: “O-I is the biggest private employer in Clackmannanshire and we welcome its investment. It’s great to see the design technology they have brought to that industry. It means we are moving with the times in a traditional industry for us, as well as diversifying.” Drinks giant Diageo has also invested £10 million in a state-of-art, new cooperage at Cambus near Alloa to support increased demand for maturation in casks of its leading Scotch whisky brands. Thus do the old and the new merge in an area whose economy has been transformed since its traditional mainstays — whisky, textiles and mining — declined or disappeared. £400 million has been ploughed into infrastructure in Alloa and surrounding Clackmannanshire. Change is attracting companies and start-ups that appreciate; land and rentals at highly competitive rates; improved transport connections such as the Clackmannanshire Bridge linking into the UK motorway network, and the restored Kincardine-Alloa-Stirling rail service; a pleasant environment for work and play; good skills locally and within easy commuting time; super-fast broadband in Alloa, Alva and some other locations; and investment in education

and training including Forth Valley College’s Alloa campus. Some of the newbies are knowledge based and are a far cry from the old industrial days. Through its leading technology, award winning Energylinx, based at the eCentre in Alloa’s Cooperage Way Business Village, delivers energy price comparisons across all UK electricity and gas suppliers to residential power users. A co-located sister company, Energylinx for Business, compares suppliers to SMEs. Energylinx and Energylinx for Business offer energy comparison solutions to energy suppliers, brokers and affiliate partners in the UK. This licensable proprietary technology powers some of the bestknown energy price comparison websites. Launched in 2003, Energylinx claims to have saved customers £14 million in 2013. “Both businesses have access to IT staff in different locations across the globe,” said head of affiliates Kenny Griffith. “But a head office in Alloa allows us to use a local talent pool which we may not have had access to had we been in a city. Alloa has proved a great source for staff for our contact centre.” Omega Diagnostics Group, a listed medical diagnostics company in the areas of food intolerance, infectious diseases and allergy, runs a business spread across Scotland, England, Germany and India from a head office in Alva, Clackmannanshire. 40 of its 145 staff are in Alva. Turnover for the year ended March 31 2014 was £11.6 million. Omega is currently evaluating in trials in Kenya and India of its disposable Visitect CD4 point-of-care test for clinical management of HIV infected patients. International connections and staff recruitment and retention are not issues, according to financial director Kieron Harbinson. “More than 90 per cent of the product produced in Alva is exported overseas through Glasgow airport so we are conveniently placed from a transport point of view,” he told Business Insight. “The majority of our Alvabased staff live locally in Clackmannanshire and many have been with us for a long time.”

O-I’s decision to upgrade its plant in Alloa highlights the area’s growing economy

Council chief executive Elaine McPherson

Alere Technologies, a medical equipment manufacturer owned by US multinational Alere Inc, is meanwhile expanding at Dumyat Business Park, Tullibody. The key point, McPherson said, is that there are now “opportunities galore” for businesses to locate and invest in Alloa and Clackmannanshire. “It’s been great to see the positivity coming through in the area.” The impact of the Clackmannanshire Bridge cannot be underestimated, she said. “You can get from the centre of Alloa to Edinburgh or Glasgow airports in around 45 minutes.” She applauded the efforts of business organisation Clacks Business and the Clacksfirst and Alloa Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in driving change. “We try to support them as much as we can,” she said. Building Clackmannanshire, devised by a Community Planning Partnership between the Council, local businesses and statutory partners provides a strategy for the period 2008-2018. “One of the key elements in that vision is about having a confident community where people have ambitions and can progress in a vibrant local economy in a fast changing world. We also want to be a distinctive place that draws people to live, work and relax here,” McPherson said. She also pointed to housing. “We have a really good choice of affordable hous-

ing. For public sector housing, we have very high quality based on our own Clackmannanshire Housing Standard which exceeds the Scottish National Housing Standard.” Imagine Alloa — a £2 million website and advertising campaign led by the Council in association with Alloa Town Centre BID and Clackmannanshire Alliance, a public-private-third sector community planning forum, majored on environmental improvements and creative arts to promote the town and draw new businesses. “It has been very significant,” McPherson said. “Its strong legacy is the growth of creative businesses, particularly in Alloa but also throughout Clackmannanshire.” A wide range of local and locallydelivered national business support and advice services are available in the area. “But we have an edge in that, as a small council, we can respond very quickly to businesses and also integrate dealing with different parts of the council so businesses do not get knocked from pillar to post,” McPherson said. “For example, our performance on planning applications is among the quickest turn around times in Scotland. We work closely with developers to assist them in any way we can within parameters. We have a very good relationship with Clacks Business too.”

Welcome to a dynamic business location that is on the move

Councillor Balsillie


lackmannanshire has undergone significant change in the past decade making it an increasingly attractive place to live, work and visit. The millions of pounds worth of recent investment includes new, quality housing developments, a number of major retail developments and the construction of three new secondary schools. There is now high-quality business accommodation catering for all sizes of companies. Clackmannanshire has a growing number of small businesses and with low cost rents, comprehensive busi-

ness support initiatives, new business parks, good quality housing and a skilled local workforce — all in a central Scotland location and we expect this trend to continue. Clackmannanshire became Scotland’s first county-wide business park Business Improvement District (BID) in April 2008. The Clackmannanshire BID, Clacksfirst Ltd, covers 200 companies in 10 business parks who benefit from efficiency improvements, cost savings and performance enhancements. Another BID for Alloa Town Centre was also established in 2008 and continues to bring additional investment to enhance the

image and facilities of the county’s main town. The Town Centre BID was one of our key partners in Imagine Alloa, using art to give our main town a unique selling point and cohesive visual theme. In addition to the new secondary schools and a new community health care centre, a new purpose-built college opened in 2011. The area’s attractions include an artificial ski slope at the foot of the Ochils, a first class cycling network, Gartmorn Dam country park and nature reserve and lovely glen walks which give you the option to explore the Ochils. The area’s reputation as being a great place to enjoy the outdoors

is growing with a series of duathlons and triathlons this summer at Gartmorn Dam and the hilltop trails and top notch singletracks of the Ochils becoming increasingly popular with mountain bikers. Clackmannanshire is fast shaping up as a prime location for new and expanding business. The mix of beautiful countryside and prime business properties, together with a dedicated team of experts to provide assistance, means Clackmannanshire is an attractive business location at an affordable price. Councillor Donald Balsillie is Enterprise and Environment Convener of Clackmannanshire Council

the times | Tuesday June 17 2014


Business Insight

Clackmannanshire The Clackmannanshire Bridge is a valuable link into the UK’s motorway system, giving easy assess to visitors

“There is potential for further development of cabin and rural accommodation along the Hillfoots,” Hamilton suggested. The Ochils Landscape Partnership, a public-private initiative, has seen more than £2 million invested to increase access to the hills and glens of the Ochils while improving river quality and restoring historic buildings. Improvements include access to geocaching trails, and walking and mountain biking activity. The Hillfoots Diamond Jubilee Way is a new, low-level, 21-kilometre (13-mile) walking route from Blairlogie to Muckhart and passing through Menstrie, Alva, Tillicoultry and Dollar. It is based on a section of the old King’s Highway, the via regia, that is thought to have been a main route from Falkland Palace in Fife to Stirling Castle and for which there is documented evidence as far back as the fourteenth century. In a nod to a current publishing and TV phenomenon, a virtual visitor centre on the website ( has a Game of Thrones-inspired streaming video guide to the local history. Entrepreneurial activity has been spurred by this and other investment in the Ochils. New businesses grasping Julie Hamilton reports a positive increase in tourism revenue

Small area packs in a great deal for visitors The public and private sectors are helping to develop an infrastructure that will bring in more tourism and enterprise, writes David McWilliams


OURISM and enterprise in general are benefiting from substantial public and private sector investment in Clackmannanshire infrastructure, paving the way to attracting more visitors and generating more business activity. Mainland Scotland’s smallest council area packs in much to attract visitors looking for somewhere accessible with a great variety of outdoor activities supported by culture, history and creativity. Its natural strengths include the imposing Ochil Hills, featuring 10 peaks that are higher than 2,000 feet and with stunning views across Central Scotland. Gartmorn Dam Country Park and Nature Reserve’s 270 acres offer a peaceful retreat for walking, cycling, orienteering, horse riding or picnicking.

The local tourism industry sustained activity well throughout the recent recession, according to Julie Hamilton, development services manager, Clackmannanshire Council. The Council is developing a strategic plan for tourism alongside the business representative organisation Clackmannanshire Business. “We have seen a moderate but positive increase in visitor numbers and tourism revenue year on year,” she said. “This is mainly because of changing perceptions and the growing profile of the area.” Day trippers including people travelling to see family and friends are the mainstay of the visitor market. “We have traditionally had an older visitor base, but the area is gradually attracting a younger audience and families across the stay-and day-visitor segments,” Hamilton added. Overseas visitors are mainly Northern Europeans attracted to the range of outdoor opportunities. There is also a heritage audience from Nova Scotia, Canada, who are interested in history and genealogy. The connection is that the colonisation of Nova Scotia was spurred in its early days by Sir William Alexander, who was born in Menstrie, Clackmannanshire. He was also instrumental in the colonisation of Long Island, New York. Working with the grain of visitor pro-

files and with a general trend in tourism towards shorter breaks, marketing campaigns for the area have targeted residents of Glasgow and Edinburgh who are within easy travelling distance by car or train. “To build on this, we have also focused on a growing programme of events and festivals,” Hamilton explained. These include the Clackmannanshire Storytelling Festival in October and November; the Forth Valley Open Studios in June featuring the work and studios of a number of Clackmannanshire’s professional artists; and the Ochils Festival, also in June. There are no large hotels but an accommodation sector dominated by bed and breakfast and self-catering has grasped the opportunities brought by better transport links and online marketing. A positive sign has been the improved quality of Clackmannanshire’s accommodation, with owners investing in both their properties and accommodation marketing. A quick trawl by Business Insight shows these include: the Woods Caravan Park, Alva; Riverside Caravan Park, Dollar; and family-owned Broomhall Castle Hotel, Menstrie, which has extended its number of rooms. Planning permission has been granted for a new hotel in Alloa.

the opportunities it has brought include Highland Coo Guided Walks, social enterprise Alva EcoLodge, and The Forge Bike Hire Café and Gallery, Menstrie, which was due to open this month. Investment in the Ochil Hills and further investment for the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative (IFLI) led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will “ensure positive development and sustainability of the natural environment and grow the outdoor activity opportunities which are increasingly sought by visitors of all ages”, Hamilton added. IFLI is a programme of 50 projects between now and April 2018 to conserve, improve and celebrate the landscape and heritage of the upper reaches of the Firth of Forth. Clackmannanshire boasts six golf courses offering varied challenges in inspiring scenery: Alloa Schawpark, a 6200 yard, par 71 championship length course designed in 1935 by James Braid; ninehole Alva; the 18-hole, par 70 Braehead course; the 18-hole, bunkerless Dollar course set out by America’s Ben Sayers; the par 68 Tillicoultry course in a stunning setting in the hills; and the 1902-vintage, 6000 yard Tuliallan course in woodland with views of the River Forth, Ochil Hills and the Forth Valley. With ancestral tourism on the rise, The Historic Kirkyard Trail opens this year ( and will complement the opening of a family research and genealogy centre at the refurbished Category A listed Speirs Centre, an iconic Alloa building housing a library. The Speirs Centre is one of the elements of town centre improvements that have made Alloa a more pleasant urban environment for locals and visitors. The Kirkyard Trail aligns with the existing Tower Trail that includes historic Castle Campbell, Alloa Tower, Menstrie Castle, Sauchie Tower and Clackmannan Tower. Future opportunities include capitalis-

Tuesday June 17 2014 | the times


Business Insight

The tourism, leisure and recreation markets cross over with the growing creative industries sector, ing on the area’s rich heritage of brewing and textiles. One is an Irish connection. Alloa’s John Jameson (born 1740), who went on to found Jameson’s, Ireland’s best known and biggest selling whiskey brand, worked originally at the now derelict Kennetpans Distillery, which is arguably the most important location for establishing the industrialisation of Scotch whisky, through its association with the Haig family and Scotch brand. The Kennetpans Trust has been trying to raise investment to halt the decline of the old distillery buildings with a view to some restoration of what could be an additional visitor attraction. Active ‘experience’ holidays in Clackmannanshire include cooking, foraging and craft weekends, which can all be projected at zero cost by visitors sharing their experiences and new skills through social media. The tourism, leisure and recreation markets cross over with creative industries, a growing sector in Clackmannanshire, Hamilton said. “Artists’ studio space is expanding in the area, and there are a number of creative hubs.” A web search shows these include Makers Gallery & Bistro, and Resonate Arts House, both in Alloa. These deliver events, art and craft classes and participate in wider festival activity. The area has an active public art programme. It is home to six of the earlier and smaller works of sculptor Andy Scott whose giant sculpture ‘The Kelpies’ at nearby Falkirk is already becoming a national landmark. Clackmannanshire also hosts ‘The Pontils’ sculpture by Michael Vissocchi and ‘The Sentinels’ by Rob Mulholland. “We would like to create a tour leading people on from The Kelpies over The Clackmannanshire Bridge to see Andy Scott’s work in Clackmannanshire,” said Elaine McPherson, chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council. “We have a sculpture trail leaflet locally and we see potential to build on that.” This Andy Scott Public Art Trail leaflet is published by Alloa Town Centre Business Improvement District and is downloadable from its website at Food and drink establishments making use of local produce and craft ales from William Brothers Brewery, Alloa, and Harviestoun Brewery, Alva, include The Woolpack Inn, Tillicoultry, which is popular with walkers on the Ochil Hills, and The King’s Seat, Dollar. The standard of skills and services in the tourism sector is being raised by industry in conjunction with national agency Skills Development Scotland, Hamilton said. “Private investment is required to elevate the Clackmannanshire [tourism] offering, but the foundations and infrastructure are now in place for this to be realised,” she concluded.” There are also opportunities to capitalise on potential visitors through the growing percentage of overseas students in residence at the nearby University of Stirling.” Local companies have likewise combined efforts since 2008 to enhance the

Clackmannan Tower is on the Tower Trail, which also includes Castle Campbell and Menstrie Castle

business environment and infrastructure through participation in the Clacksfirst Business Improvement District (BID), which at the time was the first commercial BID proposal in Scotland to ask firms to back a five year programme paid for by a levy on members. This aimed to improve safety, security, cleanliness and the working environment on the business parks

High profiles for culture Clackmannanshire boasts a number of outdoor sculptures by world-renowned Scottish sculptor Andy Scott. Entering Clackmannanshire from the new Clackmannanshire Bridge, a trail leads to This Journey’s End at Mary Wood roundabout, Clackmannan; River Spirit at Collylands Roundabout on the B9140; Lifeline at Shillinghill Roundabout, Alloa; I Can See For Miles at Alloa train station; Air Spirit at Muirside Roundabout, Tullibody; and Fox Boy at Nova Scotia Gardens, Menstrie. This Journey’s End is among

the more dramatic (see cover picture) It features two triumphal figures standing on two steel arcs with their hands bridging the gap between two shores and was designed to mark the opening of the new Clackmannanshire Bridge. Lifeline, in Alloa town centre, is the largest of Scott’s works in the area. It is a giant hand, representing the gauntlet on Clackmannanshire’s coat of arms, and supports the figures of a woman and child. A leaflet of the sculpture trail can be downloaded from

and industrial estates in the BID area. In Clackmannanshire, these are: Alloa Business Park; Alloa West; The Whins; Cooperage Way Business Village; Midtown Business Park; Riverbank Industrial Area; and The Trade Centre. The others are Alva Industrial Estate, Alva; Barnpark Business Estate, Tillicoultry; and Dumyat Business Park, Tullibody. A second five-year programme was approved by its more than 200 businesses in membership in March 2013. Clacksfirst committed some £500,000 in the first of these periods and has pledged to invest another £500,000 in the second. Improving security in consultation with Police Scotland, The Scottish Business Crime Centre and Forth Valley CCTV was an early priority. Clacksfirst has worked with Glasgow based intelligent buildings specialist Boston Networks to install closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance across all these parks. The cameras record all vehicle and activity, monitor entry and exit to the parks, and allow for vehicle number plate recognition and enhanced video analysis. The BID has donated landscaping equipment and tools to Clackmannanshire’s Criminal Justice Service to help

improve the working environment to these locations through a work-in-kind partnership. “There has been a reduction in crimes such as metals and other theft,” said Kevin Deighan, chief executive of the Clacksfirst BID. “We’re a business improvement district so want to help businesses perform. Security is part of that. If it can stop £20,000 worth of kit being taken from an industrial estate, then that is significant to a business, particularly if it is small.” Other Clacksfirst BID initiatives have supported improved signage to and within the parks and outside each business. “This and the cameras help the place to look more dynamic,” Deighan said. Combined with CCTV, signage also helps in crime prevention and the evidential value of video from the cameras. Clacksfirst BID has contributed to the sprucing up of Clackmannanshire by donating park benches and picnic tables for the Riverbank Industrial Area, renovating planter barrels for the business parks, and removing litter and graffiti from these parks. Cutting back overgrown bushes and shrubbery in business parks and industrial estates has aided security bv reducing cover for thieves to hide. Elements of these programmes have created work for people doing Community Service Orders, thereby encouraging training for offenders. The Alloa Town Centre BID (ATC BID) likewise focuses on security among its projects. These include a Shop Safe radio scheme through which businesses communicate among themselves to report crime and warn about people behaving suspiciously or in an anti-social way. The key holders of late night stores and staff doing banking use Shop Safe radios and may ask for local CCTV cameras to track them to where they are going. This project is run in close collaboration with Police Scotland and the town’s CCTV control centre. The ATC BID has also partnered Clackmannanshire Council to gain Park Mark Safer Parking Awards for each of the town centre’s eight free car parks, which are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by CCTV. The Park Mark Safer Parking Scheme is an initiative of the United Kingdom’s Associations of Chief Police Officers and involves car parks being vetted by forces such as Police Scotland. This UK national accreditation means the town can promote these as being safe places to leave a vehicle. Alloa was the first town in Scotland to have all its car parks thus accredited. A third strand to the ATC BID’s security projects involves issuing expert advice on vacant property security. The ATC BID also worked on the Clackmannanshire Alliance local forum submission — led by Clackmannanshire Council — that won £2 million in Scottish government funding to revitalise the town centre. Elements of this included better paving, new public art works, and a shop front enhancement scheme. It has combined familiar town centre planning with cultural planning that uses art as a regeneration tool. Clacksfirst and ATC BID’s jointly applied to Zero Waste Scotland for funding of a pilot recycling service some two years’ ago. Following the successful application both BIDs now provide a free recycling service to all businesses in the BID areas and deliver the service in partnership with ACE Recycling, a Community Interest Company that provides training and employment returning profits to support the social needs of communities in which it operates.

the times | Tuesday June 17 2014



Hot news in the medical world The chief executive of a rapidly growing medical microwave company tells Rick Wilson why moving from the US has resulted in him exporting to it


ary Beale can take a joke, but he has doubtless heard this one before, cracked by people who have just learned that he is a producer and supplier of medical microwave devices. No, he says patiently, it’s nothing to do with hospital meals. Indeed, his company – Emblation Ltd – is a deal more serious than that. Its innovative products are in great demand by some of the world’s biggest healthcare companies (one of them a mighty $30 billion US-based player) and attract many an admiring American executive up the long drive to his doorstep at the beautiful Inglewood House in the shadow of the Ochils. “Which,” as the chief executive says himself, “is not bad going for a wee company from Alloa”. That of course is simplifying his own journey to this house, where his “wee” firm is rapidly expanding with eight full-time colleagues and three more about to be hired. It is not actually “from” Alloa either. His route to that stunning Paton-built art nouveau mansion, where Emblation occupies a modern extension, was also from America; but it started three miles away in his birthplace of Alva, where he began “a good Scottish education” four decades ago. His experience in medical microwaves spans more two of those decades, starting with his degrees in electronic engineering and digital systems at Heriot-Watt University and really getting under way with his PhD research in novel microwave power and communication applications. His hands-on experience has covered development of military and commercial microwave products with Thales and then Microsulis Medical in Edinburgh, where he became director of product development – heading up R&D in the fields of gynecology and vascular surgery – at Microsulis Americas near Boston. But how did he develop the confidence to branch out on his own? Or at least with the respected expertise and experience of Emblation co-founder and earlier HeriotWatt colleague Eamon McErlean? Mr Beale’s last American move was into a cardiovascular field, not directly involved in his first interest of microwave technology and, when that company decided to move from Boston to Minnesota, it was also decision time for him and his young family – a Scottish wife and two young daughters who were already speaking with “awesome” American accents. “I thought it was a good moment to do my own thing and was delighted to get Eamon’s agreement to come on board an independent venture back home, where he was still based,” he recalls. “And I was

even more encouraged when I talked from the States to the Scottish government about help and it also came aboard what was then – in 2007 – quite a risky venture.” Nevertheless, watching the limited seed money was important. Alloa was not chosen for sentimental reasons, not just because his mother still lives in Clackmannanshire, but because it was “full of potential while being very well located and relatively inexpensive in setting-up terms”. Now Emblation Ltd confidently describes itself as “a global leader in the field of microwave technology, specialising in the development of compact, state-of-theart microwave systems for use in medical and commercial applications” and still does 95 per cent of its business across the pond, though its devices are manufactured in Scotland. The key word concerning these is “compact”. Although the company makes and markets “a whole suite of products”, there is one of which it is particularly proud 
It is the result of Gary Beale directly addressing the medical arena’s unfulfilled requirement for lightweight portable microwave units, especially the generator unit supplying power to the system that can – by means of a cable and applicator – deal with tumours, varicose veins and other ablation challenges by “cooking” the tissue around them then asking the body to heal the area again. Ablation? To the uninitiated, the word means removal of a part of biological tissue, usually by surgery. Surface ablation of the skin (dermabrasion, also called resurfacing because it induces regeneration) can be carried out by chemicals which cause peeling, or by lasers. Its purpose is to remove skin spots,

aged skin, wrinkles, thus rejuvenating it. “When I went to visit surgeries or clinics working with such a unit it struck me that there was an urgent need for a miniaturised version of it,” says Mr Beale. “Surgeons would roll these huge behemoths in and out of their offices with great effort, and then jam them up against the door, seriously reducing their working space to the size of a cupboard and creating at the very least a fire risk. Something had to be done about it.” So he did something. He conceived and patented a version that was a third of the size of any other existing type, and which made the competition sit up – “huge multinational companies that should have been doing this first”. Emblation can now provide customers with a complete, fully functional and 60601 compliant solution, having developed and realised the MSYS series of microwave

Gary Beale says that Alloa was chosen as a location because of its potential and location

Emblation’s Swift allows surgeons increased flexibility in moving around

generators – the world’s lightest, most compact and portable microwave generators in their class. “It is comparable in size to an A4 ream of paper,” he says, “or three-demensionally to, say, a small DVD player. And it has created a huge demand, so much so that we have become the sole supplier for the top energy-based ablation company headquartered in America, and which is worth tens of billions of dollars.” And not only that; for even more surface-based precision Emblation has patented and developed a product called Swift that looks like being another big success story, although – while being already legally marketable – the firm has chosen to extend its clinical tests. And not only that; it had also occurred to Mr Beale that the cable from the older style of generator was too rigid to allow surgeons the maximal flexibility they would really want to move around and in towards patients as he or she wished. So Emblation came up with a fully flexible version that promises to be quite a boon among that fraternity. All of which can only, in turn, prove a boon for Alloa and district. Although he now lives in leafy Bridge of Allan, Mr Beale is an enthusiastic campaigner for the Wee County’s “vast potential”. He believes that the good local schooling he benefited from is still turning out “a huge amount of talent that needs to be harnessed”. He would dearly like to see more technical innovation companies in the area, where “we seem to stick out like a sore thumb”. But let’s face it, when it comes to sore thumbs, Emblation is good entrepreneurial example to have around – to see that it’s fixed in a microwave jiffy.

Tuesday June 17 2014 | the times


Business Insight


Into Europe and Asia from Alloa

Housing big ambitions for the ‘Wee County’

By Mike Mulraney


hilst being the Chairman of Clackmannanshire Business clearly indicates my personal commitment to Clackmannanshire, I would like to explain why I believe that Alloa represents an outstanding business location for not only small two to three person enterprises but also for multinationals looking to relocate in Scotland. The Mulraney Group started trading in Clackmannanshire more than two decades ago, primarily because it was where we originated and several early business decisions continued to be taken on this basis. Twenty five years later when a more complete and detached analysis is taken on any strategic business decisions we make, we still find ourselves selecting Alloa to both headquarter and base most of our trading operations. With 450 staff and a number of different interests trading throughout Scotland, the UK and Europe, we believe that central Scotland represents an excellent location to do business and that Alloa, being at the centre, holds a number of

Gean House is home to Ceteris, a firm committed to local business and raising the area’s profile, writes Rick Wilson

A Mike Mulraney left, and Gary Wormersley, leader of Clackmannanshire Council

unique selling points which, when taken together, ensure a competitive advantage. Situated almost equidistant between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and with outstanding road and rail transport links, Alloa is strategically situated to serve central Scotland and beyond. Add to this an available and willing workforce and an abundance of commercial properties at very competitive rates, Alloa is an ideal environment for start-ups, relocation and growth. With this in mind, not only have we headquartered and based our Geotechnical Drilling operations in Alloa but also Indodrill, our South East Asian partners in our new mineral exploration drilling company are more than happy with our decision to launch the company’s expansion into Europe and Asia from Alloa. I believe Alloa can help me build a more competitive future and is certainly worthy of serious consideration as a business destination.

t a moment when Scotland’s art nouveau heritage seems more precious and vulnerable than ever — with Glasgow’s iconic School of Art being damaged by fire — a visitor’s appreciation of Gean House in Alloa is heightened. This tycoon’s legacy is a gasp-inducing gem of pre-Great War architecture that not only symbolises the Wee County’s capacity for big thinking but also accommodates an energetic band of business-oriented people who believe it’s well up to that — and more — in today’s rising post-recession optimism. Margaret Mary Rafferty, chief executive of Ceteris, the 45-strong company in question — whose brief is actively to promote business in Clackmannanshire — concedes that times have been less than easy, with austerity horns being drawn in by many potential customers, not least those of the council. “But when times are bad you can’t just sit around on your hands doing nothing,” she says. In tune with that feisty philosophy, the beauty of the 1911 house — designed by local architect William Kerr and given by local yarn magnate Alexander Forrester Paton to a son as a wedding gift — was increasingly focused on as a romantic wedding venue, a role in which it proved impressive enough to be named Regional Winner of the Scottish Wedding Awards Venue of the Year in February. “We refocused activities at Gean

Margaret Mary Rafferty, chief executive of Ceteris

because we reckoned that this sector was fairly recession-proof,” she explains. Now, however, while by no means forgetting the wedding market, it is back to business “with new energy and a new marketing executive” and Margaret Mary is pleased to record a surge of fresh business enquiries after a couple of surveys taken this year by Ceteris (part of a Latin phrase meaning “all other things being equal”). Having started as an Enterprise Trust, Ceteris now operates as a regular company “apart from the fact that its profits are all re-invested into the business to achieve its aims of supporting economic regeneration and development primarily in Clackmannanshire”. There are essentially three strands to this, says the chief executive. Firstly, the supply of suitable accommodation. Gean House is by no means the only property on Ceteris’ books. With the help of the European Regional Development Fund, its property portfolio has grown from a single site at Alloa Business Centre to 13 sites. The property portfolio ranges from modern purpose-built office accommodation in managed business centres to stand-alone workshops and manufacturing units and listed buildings refurbished to provide business space. The company’s total property asset value has risen to £11 million, and this portfolio represents a sustainable income. Margaret Mary is particularly pleased by the fact that the 150 tenants within Ceteris’ property employ almost 800 people. She adds: “We feel that our property activities bring real added value to Clackmannanshire. Without this accommodation many businesses would have to move out of the area. We are fulfilling the company purpose.” Secondly, there is vital help to grow your business in Clackmannanshire, with Ceteris delivering the Business Gateway (BG) services for Clackmannanshire.

“Our Business Gateway team works with over 200 individuals and businesses each year ensuring they have access to the best possible advice to start and/or grow their business. “Among the past year’s achievements have been 118 new businesses supported in Clackmannanshire, intensive growth support for 20 businesses, 10 growth events, 22 start-up workshops and 25 private training courses and we also deliver private training on business-related topics, such as finance and management skills, and have invested in a dedicated IT suite at Alloa Business Centre. This is all provided at a very reasonable cost, and for practically no profit.” She adds with an air of optimism: “It’s clear to see that training and recruitment of skilled staff is again being seen as a high priority.” Thirdly, there is the renewed dynamic for Gean House to provide businessorientated functions, with facilities adaptable to all kinds of requirements — from conferences through meetings to breakout rooms — for all kinds of businesses as well as more unexpected establishments such as the Scottish Prison Service, Stirling University and Dundee and Angus College. Margaret Mary is keen to get over the message that Ceteris is committed to helping local businesses develop, and is also keen to increase awareness of the area’s potential. On the recent property development front, the company has just completed projects to divide larger units into spaces that are more suited to small business needs. Last year it divided a large, 16,000 sq ft property into 12 smaller units, and this year it has divided an 8,000 sq ft unit into three smaller spaces. These have been fully let before being finished — another sign of growing business confidence — and Ceteris is on the look-out for more small, good-quality industrial units “with a view to getting more manufacturing companies into Clackmannanshire”. “People all over the UK need to be reminded,” she says, “that Alloa is at the very heart of Scotland, next-door to Stirling, Falkirk and Dunfermline and within 40 minutes of either Glasgow or Edinburgh. And while the town is situated in beautiful, rolling country, it is anything but a backwater. We want business people within and without the county to know that we are working for them, and not just for the generation of profits; we are also committed to the longer view, to regeneration of the whole economy of the area, and therefore to the creation of many more new jobs.” Imagine Alloa? Margaret Mary is an enthusiastic subscriber to that movement and it is easy indeed to imagine the town and its environs thriving with this kind of dedicated commitment to its business success. For further information on Ceteris or to make enquiries please contact the following: Property Enquiries: Eva Gardiner on Business Gateway: Alison Davidson on Gean House:

the times | Tuesday June 17 2014


Business Insight COMMERCIAL REPORT: OWENS-ILLINOIS The O-I plant at Alloa illuminates the waters of the Forth


Beacon of achievement

he Owens-Illinois (O-I) plant at Alloa is the perfect foil for that old joke about bottling a recipe for success. Here, where they produce more than two million bottles a day, it is the glassware itself that represents a remarkable success story. O-I is renowned for innovation and creativity, yet the Alloa plant is also rooted firmly in tradition, with a glassmaking operation having been located on this site for 264 years since first established by Lady Frances Erskine of Mar. Today, however, Alloa is at the cutting edge of a dynamic sector supplying glass packaging to Scotland’s drinks producers. In April, O-I underlined Alloa’s market strength, and the skills of the 600-strong workforce, by announcing a three-year investment programme of more than £24 million. This investment, including a £3.9 million Regional Selective Assistance grant from Scottish Enterprise, means upgrading design, product development, glass colour and decoration facilities that will enhance Alloa’s ability to serve the developing needs of the Scottish spirits industry. For Alan Hunter, the Alloa plant manager, it’s an exciting new phase for the company, and he’s particularly proud of the recognition this has brought to the people who work there. “It’s terrific news that O-I is investing in the plant,” he said. “It secures the future for a glassmaking operation that has been here in the same location in Alloa for more than 260 years and it’s further encouragement to a loyal workforce crucial to the continuing success of this plant.” With Scotland’s whisky industry having shown an 87 per cent rise in exports between 2002 and 2012, and at £4.3bn, accounting for around 25 per cent of the UK’s overseas food and drink market, the need for responsive glassmaking has never been greater. O-I’s investment means Alloa, already the Scottish market leader, can create more packaging solutions to meet the demand for high quality branding, together with innovation and the necessary speed to market. The first phase of investment at Alloa

will provide new decoration and bottle printing facilities with increased capacity, state-of-the-art on-site mould milling, and a new CAD design suite for faster prototyping, and therefore a faster route to market for new product development projects. There is also an increased range of colours for premium products, with a greater capacity to make black glass bottles, and the installation of facilities to produce extra flint (ultra clear) glass bottles in a wide range of sizes and quantities. “Part of the investment plan is to ensure we remain the market leaders, and run in parallel with the ambitions of the Scottish spirits industry,” says Hunter. “Differentiation and individualism in branding are key, and we’ll now have the capability to create new glass prototypes fast, to bring the design on-site in front of clients using the latest 3D technology, take it into the machine shop for the latest mould cutting techniques, then out to the machine to produce a glass container – and say: ‘here it is’. We’ll take a concept, and within 15 days we’ll turn it into a sample bottle.” Alloa has recently created the new glass bottle for Hayman’s Gin ranges, a square bottle with four flat panels that taper out towards the shoulder, and feature crisp, high-quality embossing. The plant also produces the distinctive black glass bottle for Cutty Sark’s Prohibition Edition for the US market. “We’ve had terrific success with black glass and premium white flint glass,” says Hunter. “We also do green and amber, and while this diversity already marks out our level of expertise, we can also offer all these ranges from mini sizes to two-litre handled bottles, from very small runs up to tens of millions. Around 90 per cent of our production is for spirits, although we also make bottles for soft drinks, water and beers. However, we see ourselves as part of the Scottish spirits industry. It’s moving on and we need to move with it. “We have a highly-skilled team over the whole range of glassmaking processes, and the employees here often come up with innovations and ideas. In this industry you can learn something new every day, and one of the reasons we’re so successful is that our employees are so

Alloa produces bottles for Cutty Sark’s Prohibition Edition. Below, plant manager Alan Hunter

passionate about the business, and make that extra effort. “We work hard to build close relationships with our customers, so we effectively work as a partnership. One quality development manager will be specific to a customer, so they have a face to a name, and can pick up a phone or come in to the plant whenever they need to. We work together, not just on new projects but also on everyday production, building up that relationship. We’re part of a big global company but it’s important to us we try to build that level of partnership with all our customers “What is also crucial is sustainability, and the integrity of our product. The great thing about glass is it’s 100 per cent recyclable, and all products used within it are natural. We use our own sand from a local quarry, so there is limited vehicle movement, and most of the raw materials are sourced locally. We also have close links with Zero Waste Scotland, and work with councils to recycle the glass they collect from the public into new bottles. Glass is a fantastic product, no waste comes back, and the more we reuse it then the less raw material we need.” Hunter himself began working for O-I at another Scottish plant as an apprentice, and moved to Alloa 31 years ago. He is acutely aware of the plant’s heritage, how embedded that it is in the local community, and the important role Alloa

Glass act on a global scale Owens-Illinois (O-I) is the world’s largest glass container manufacturer, employing around 22,500 people at 77 plants in 21 countries. The company produces and delivers sustainable, pure, and brand-building glass packaging to a growing global marketplace, with more than 49,000 customers in 86 countries. With a three-year programme under way to strengthen its capabilities and market leadership position in Europe, O-I will have invested more than £227million in these operations by the end of this year. O-I’s European operations include 8,000 employees in 10 countries, generating around £1.7 billion of sales in 2013, which represents almost 40 per cent of the company’s global sales. The company also runs a global initiative, Glass is Life, to celebrate the product’s quality and sustainability.

glassmaking still has as the area’s largest private sector employer, with 500 jobs indirectly supported by the plant in addition to the 600 employees. “One of the strengths of the Alloa operation is the pride and the passion the employees have for the plant, and that’s integral to what we’ve achieved here, there is such a strong desire for the business to succeed,” he says. “Generation upon generation of the same families have worked here, so employees knows their fathers or grandfathers were here, and that gives Alloa a really strong sense of community. Many of them have been here long-term, with more than 20 years of service. Of course, the majority of employees also live locally so they know the importance of the plant to Alloa itself, and how O-I also supports the wider community with so many other local businesses relying on it. “The plant also supports organisations such as local sports clubs, and we also work with the schools to give children and young people the chance to see the different disciplines and career opportunities we have here, from engineering, manufacturing and design through to accounts and administration. “We are also one of the businesses in Scotland which takes on apprentices, and we notify the local schools every year to encourage young people to apply. We also have regular visits from students studying for an MSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University, and their tours here have led to some young people going on to make careers in the glass or drinks industries.” Hunter says O-I’s investment means Alloa, and the employment it offers for the next generation, has now been secured for the long-term. “We’ve been given a fantastic opportunity,” he adds. “The Alloa plant has been here for 260 years, and I don’t see any reason why it can’t be here for another 260. The investment ensures we’re in a very good position. We know the plant plays a big part in the local community, and through the generations of people working here there has been a strong loyalty and ambition to be successful that continues today.”

Tuesday June 17 2014 | the times



Forth Valley College’s Alloa campus is leading the way in offering young people in Clackmannanshire a welcome level of support, says Barry MacDonald


tanding directly opposite the entrance to Forth Valley College’s new Alloa campus is a striking public sculpture by artist Andy Scott, the man responsible for the iconic Kelpies. This imposing piece of art is named Lifeline and depicts a giant hand supporting a mother and child. It’s a fitting reflection of the hope and encouragement the college offers the Clackmannanshire community: a helping hand on the road to education and employment. Opened in 2011, the campus sits at the heart of Alloa, an accessible centre filled with state of the art training and educational facilities. A variety of courses at the college range from construction, engineering, business administration, hairdressing and beauty therapy to retail, computing, art and care. It even boasts a fully functioning hair and beauty salon which is open to the public. The College’s Department of Business is also on the brink of being relocated to the Alloa Campus. Associate Principal Andrew Lawson believes this is a vital step which will offer key opportunities for learning. He said: “This will give young people an opportunity to do more business admin, tourism and retail courses and also the chance to do Chartered Management Institute courses for the first time in Alloa. And from August we’re offering integrated degree provision, a BSc Honours in Applied Computing, in partnership with Stirling University. That’s exciting because students will do some work here in Alloa then go to Stirling University to finish off their degree.” At present the majority of business courses are concentrated around the College’s Falkirk campus, with some elements focused at the Stirling campus. Mr Lawson added: “As part of a regional approach, the Alloa campus was always deemed to be the business campus in line with local employment opportunities and we’re now in the process of moving the majority of that provision here in August and even more in 2015 and 2016.” There are around 1,200 learners in the Alloa campus alone, the majority young people either just leaving school or between the ages of 16 and 24. Over the years the college has fostered strong links with local businesses to offer vital placements. The college’s drive to attain higher levels of employability among the young has never been so focused or important. Andrew Lawson said: “We have a wide range of opportunities for young people, from employability courses to the new college learning pro-

A helping hand toward employment for youth grammes and through European Social Fund (ESF) funded programmes. We also have a detailed programme of Modern Apprenticeships at Alloa. We work very closely with the Community Planning Partnership and I also chair the local Employability Partnership as well, so through our involvement in these key groups we ensure that what we offer meets the needs of the local community as well as the aspirations of the college and the young people. “We also work closely with Skills Development Scotland and have run a number of employer events in the Alloa campus recently. These were mainly to look at their needs and how we could address them. We’ve had three events so far and they’ve been well attended by a wide range of local employers, from the construction and retail sectors and also from town centre management and Clackmannanshire Council. We’ve been asking businesses about the skills they want young people to have when they leave the college. “Mainly the focus is to get young people into jobs. That’s been fairly successful but its early days. The placement part has always been a key part to a lot of our programmes and helps us achieve our aim to get young people back into employment.” To demonstrate the college’s commitment to the goal, they now employ their own Modern Andrew Lawson points to a wide range of opportunity for young people

Apprentices. The Alloa campus alone has around 20 young people working in administration posts. Andrew Lawson added: “That was a new venture for us last year. Two of them have since secured full-time employment.” One of the key issues for young people in the area is the barriers to gaining employment. It’s the college’s task, argued Mr Lawson, to break down those barriers. But first, he conceded, you have to identify them. “There’s a range of barriers to work for young people. Sometimes it’s just a fear of the unknown. I also think it’s sometimes a financial issue for the young people. We need to get people through the door to show what we can offer and the support we can provide. We can show them how

learning can work for them. We work closely with local schools to get people in from fourth, fifth and sixth year to make sure we get them into the right courses.” While the college is accumulating an impressive track record in engaging with young people in Clackmannanshire, there is always room for improvement, concludes Mr Lawson. “I’d like to see more young people access the provision that we have here and for us to continue to develop the relationship we have with the council and local employers to ensure we’re the provider of choice. I think we’re getting there but we can always improve on that and continue to make Forth Valley College a place where young people come to learn and move into work.”

Campus with community at its heart

We need to get people through the door to show the support we can offer

As Scotland’s first regional college, Forth Valley College has put community at the heart of its four campuses: Falkirk, Alloa, Stirling and Raploch. At Alloa, it’s clear that being sited in the very centre of the community reinforces that community ethos. Associate Principal Andrew Lawson is evangelical about involving the entire community – from learners and locals to businesses and the public sector. He said: “We’re right in the heart of the town. We sit up on a small mound and we’re easily visible. It has brought a new life to Alloa town centre.People see it as their campus – and I certainly encourage a lot of the community

groups to come in and use and access the campus in the evenings and in summer. “One of the good things about the Alloa campus is that we have a fully equipped Management Training Centre which was developed in partnership with FES. We also work closely with local business and launched a fully-equipped Management Training Centre at the Alloa Campus this year which was developed in partnership in FES. “It’s an award winning campus and we have a range of facilities here that not only learners can access but also local businesses and the local community.”

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BIScot 170614  

Business Insight Scotland 17/06/2014

BIScot 170614  

Business Insight Scotland 17/06/2014