A NEW private sector body was launched today – with the prospect of at least £50 million to help businesses flourish in the North-east.
Opportunity North East (ONE) is being chaired by oil services tycoon Sir Ian Wood, whose charitable foundation is providing £25m.
The board includes some of the region’s finest business leaders, who will soon be joined by representatives of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils.
Sir Ian painted two scenarios for the North-east in the decades ahead.
He said: “The current downturn in oil and gas has cast the issues we face into even sharper relief and there are essentially two routes ahead.
“A renaissance which sees us revitalise the region’s economy, or a slow decline towards becoming a museum for the golden age of North Sea oil and gas.
“The business community is increasingly aware of the bleak prospect that could face us if we don’t get our act together now and take concerted action to secure a sustainable and balanced economy in the future.
“ONE will therefore target its actions on sector-specific projects of scale – leveraging additional resources from the public and private sectors – which will realise the greatest returns for the region in the future, in terms of economic growth and employment.”
Sir Ian, founder of Wood Group, said the difference between the two scenarios was a “minimum of 20,000 jobs”.
He said the region had been “sleep walking” towards the museum before being “woken up” by the downturn.
The billionaire said the oil and gas industry could be around for a “long time” but stressed the city had to “maximise” its return while broadening its economy.
The £25m from the Wood Foundation is expected to draw in match-funding from Scottish Enterprise and other public and private sector sources, putting at least £50m on the table for projects over the next five years.