West Lothian is in third place in Scotland in attracting foreign business investment.
That was one of several good news messages to brighten an otherwise foreboding economic forecast when the council’s Business Development Manager, Jim Henderson spoke to the newly created Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP) on Economy, Community Empowerment and Wealth Building.
The work of the Business Gateway team in developing start-ups in the county and drawing in investment has been worth around £4bn to the local economy and has created 325 new businesses in the year to March
The new Invest in West Lothian website launched earlier in the year is a shop window for the world and has seen the number of visitors per month rise from 150 to 600 since launch.
The website features big names such as Valneva, the French developer of one of the world Covid vaccines, as well as Mitsubishi Electric and Sky, both long established in the county.
Mr Henderson told the meeting: “The investment that West Lothian has secured from North America, mainland Europe and Asia places us third in Scotland.
“I think it's fair to say we are punching well above our weight on that and that's a challenge we are looking to embrace and improve upon.”
He added: “We are pleased with the household brands that we have on the website. It reassures and encourages investors.”
Easy access to transport links has proved key to attracting foreign investors, Mr Henderson said, adding that demand for space remained high.
The website also links to job search and training as well as grant aid available to employers.
Mr Henderson said: “We are particularly keen to emphasise the graduate recruitment fund and we have seen good take up. The rationale is to give younger people the opportunity to get that first step in career progression.”
The jobs vacancy page has been one of the most popular, with individuals and also with businesses going in to see what the market is demanding.
Chairing the meeting depute council leader Kirsteen Sullivan said the website provided a “welcome strengthening of support in West Lothian.”
Lib Dem councillor Sally Pattle praised the fantastic job the team were doing, but wondered if what it was offering to local businesses was being marketed in the right way, suggesting the many local businesses didn't understand what could be done to help them.
Mr Henderson said work was ongoing to build the profile of the website and develop search engine optimisation to bring customers to it.
During the course of the meeting he said that team members were hosting a webinar on the extra support available for low carbon and green initiatives at which 20 businesses were present.
Independent councillor Stuart Borrowman thanked Mr Henderson for the comprehensive report and looked forward to “hearing more details” .