Through the second round of its COVID-19 support scheme, made possible thanks to a generous contribution of £100,000 from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the Caithness Business Fund has been able to support additional businesses across the North Highlands with their plans for reopening.
All successful applicants to the second round have now had their grants distributed, helping to enable activities including the development of risk assessments and safe working procedures, the purchase of PPE and cleaning supplies, and modifications to premises to enable a safe return to operations as lockdown restrictions ease.
John McNamara, Head of Stakeholder Relations at the NDA said:
“We know local businesses are facing huge challenges and additional costs in adapting to new guidelines aimed at keeping their staff and customers safe, as they look to re-open.
“We are delighted to increase support to them through the Caithness Business Fund, and to re-affirm the NDA’s commitment to play a part in the Highland community’s efforts in recovery from the current crisis.”
Several successful applicants are highlighted below, showcasing the range of businesses and activities supported by the Fund.
Murray Lamont, Bin Ends, said:
"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our business, as it has many others in the retail sector. The support from the Caithness Business Fund will help us redesign and refurbish the shop to meet the changing needs of the market and ensure that we can offer our customers a safe and appealing buying experience."
Joanna Mackenzie, Clean Bees, said:
"We are currently looking at how we can phase back to work following the effects of COVID-19 on our business, and are looking to diversify and offer additional services to businesses and individuals alike. Being able to offer additional safety measures and processes will be vital in months and years to come.
"The support from the Fund will enable us to invest in additional equipment and training to help businesses in the areas reopen, and to ensure that we can offer a service which meets their enhanced cleaning needs in future."
A spokesperson, JPL Shellfish, said:
"As a food business, ensuring the safety and quality of our product has always been of paramount importance. COVID-19 has brought with it many additional procedures and requirements for PPE so that we can continue to offer our customers a high-quality, safe product at this difficult time. This has resulted in a significant additional expense to the business, and the support from the Caithness Business Fund will go a long way to helping us meet those costs."
Charlotte Mountford, Lyth Arts Centre, said:
"This has been a uniquely challenging time for the arts sector across the UK, and we have had to suspend our programme of performances, events and workshops for an indefinite length of time. Recent announcements of support for the sector from Government have been welcome, but it will take time for this to be fully realised.
"In order to safely restart our public facing activity, we need to create additional space across the site to enable social distancing. The support from the Caithness Business Fund will enable us to purchase a secure storage container, allowing us to free up space currently used to store equipment and enable a safe return for our staff and visitors."
Teresa Wymer, Stacks Coffee House and Bistro, said:
“As an independent business, we are proud that this is our first ever funding application. Although we managed to trade on a very small scale in the later weeks, lockdown has cut a large chunk out of our vital summer season, much like others in hospitality. The grant we received from Caithness Business Fund was helpful for purchasing inter-table screens for the Bistro and other safety additions. All keeping customers safe while they enjoy their experience. A little goes a long way at the moment!
We look forward to welcoming our customers back to Stacks from the 15th...even if things are a little different!”
David Hook, Tongue Hotel, said:
"The necessity of locking down our business over part of the tourist season - usually our busiest time of year - has been challenging. It is fantastic that we are able to open again to visitors from mid-July, and the support provided by the Caithness Business Fund will be instrumental in enabling us to purchase the equipment and amenities we need to safely welcome visitors back to the beautiful North Highlands."
Following two successful funding rounds, the first enabled by a contribution from Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and the second by a contribution from the NDA, the Fund has been able to support 125 businesses throughout the North Highlands.