Q What investment opportunities are there for firms which might not have Aberdeen on their radar?
A Obviously we are best known for the oil and gas sector but there are plenty of other investment opportunities in the region.
We are working on plans to transform the city centre at many different levels, which will create excellent opportunities for retail companies, commercial developers and home builders.
We are also in the process of approving a new local plan which will free up much more industrial land, which has been in very short supply.
It is great news for the existing businesses who are looking to expand as well as new businesses looking to set up operations in the area.
Q As chair of Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum and leader of Aberdeen City Council, can you see any new investment opportunities that were not available in the past?
A Well, it is always difficult to persuade people in Aberdeen that we need to diversify our industry sectors when we have the oil price that we do today and the prosperity that brings us .
A lot of us have lived in the area long enough to realise the cycles of the oil industry are not always kind, so we are looking at other areas such as technology, renewable energy, life sciences and, of course, tourism, an obvious area of expansion for the region.
Q What do you think US property tycoon Donald Trump’s high profile plans to build a luxury golf development will do for Aberdeenshire if they are approved?
A If Mr Trump’s development receives planning permission, from a business perspective it is as much about saying “we are open for business” than anything. First Group, the world’s largest ground transportation company, is building its headquarters in Aberdeen so we are quite clearly available for business.
From a tourist perspective, people who come in to play golf at Mr Trump’s resort will not just go home immediately – they are likely to visit the rest of the area because we have such a lot of offer, golf, fishing, climbing – and all in a 100-mile radius. And it is bound to give a significant economic boost to other businesses as it will attract untold numbers of high-end spenders creating opportunities for luxury retailers, for example.
Q So the development will add momentum to the city’s strategy of industry diversification?
A Yes, and not just in tourism. In terms of diversification we are seeing other industries, such as the renewable energy sector grow, as there is a big cross over between the technologies that have been developed for oil and gas. Aberdeen is leading in a large amount of renewable energy research and we hope to soon have a joint-chair of renewable energy between the two universities.
I have also been told that we have the highest number of life scientists outside of London per head of population, so we have enough happening to cushion the effects – if and when the oil and gas industry declines.
Q What will encourage more big oil companies to re-invest and stay in the area after oil reserves dwindle?
A What they have here is a good city in which to live and work – even at the moment our existing oil and gas service companies are undertaking at least 50% of their work overseas already. They are selling their expertise all over the world because of the global respect for the knowledge developed in the North Sea area.
A lot of it comes down to quality of life, a stable tax regime and a stable government. Even though I think the North Sea has a long way to go before oil reserves run out – probably between 50 or 60 years – new technology is increasing the economic viability of extracting smaller and smaller reserves all the time. We will remain a key global hub for the oil and gas industry for generations to come.