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Business / Tech companies show interest in moving to isles after space funding boost

Development director admits, however, that more could be done with young people around future career opportunities

Lockheed Martin is to develop its UK launch operations from Shetland Space Centre.

TECHNOLOGY companies have expressed an interest in relocating to the isles following news of major investment in the proposed Shetland Space Centre.

Shetland Islands Council development director Neil Grant told councillors during a meeting on Tuesday that several companies had been in touch with the local authority within a week of news of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin shifting its support to Unst.

This was welcomed by Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall.

“I’m really pleased to hear that there will be discussions with hi-tech companies,” she said.

Lyall added that the tech companies may not affected by location as much as other industries – as long as they have reliable connectivity.

In October it was announced by the UK Government that £17 million of funding for Lockheed Martin to develop space facilities in the country was moving from a planned port in Sutherland to Unst.

Shetland Space Centre still needs to secure planning permission before it can become a reality.

During Tuesday’s development committee meeting North Isles member Alec Priest suggested more housing for Unst might also be needed in the future for workers associated with the Shetland Space Centre.

He said in Unst there is not really much spare accommodation left.

Grant responded by saying that housing is generally identified on demand and need.

The North Isles generally have low demand from the public.

But he highlighted that the council’s strategic housing investment plan is updated yearly.

Grant also pointed to four planned units in Walls as a “really good example” of working together with the community with regards to housing demand in outlying areas.

He said in relation to Unst it is “certainly something we can approach with the community”.

Committee chairman Alastair Cooper also asked council officials if local young people are being encouraged to look at careers in emerging industries such as the space sector and green energy which are being proposed for Shetland.

“I think we need to be doing more to encourage abilities that industry needs within our community,” he said.

Grant admitted that “at the moment clearly not enough” is being done.

“I think youngsters coming through the system at the moment probably aren’t that well sighted on the businesses of the future,” he said.

“There are some bright lights around, and our own college organisations and the new principal in particular recognises this.”

Grant highlighted a new project called Living Labs which sees the colleges liaise with businesses around what skills they may require.