MORAY has "exciting times" ahead as the public and private sector join forces to deliver a bright economic future, a senior business chief has vowed.
However, George McNeil also warned that many businesses are still struggling and urged Ministers at Holyrood and Westminster to do more to promote business growth.
Mr McNeil, president of the Moray Chamber of Commerce, paid tribute to the work that has gone into producing the Moray Economic Strategy (MES), which will form the over-arching economic blueprint for the future.
"This truly is an exciting time as we see the private and public sector coming together in true, effective partnerships that will reap great rewards for the Moray economy," claimed Mr McNeil, managing director of the retail division at Johnston’s of Elgin.
However, he stressed that the partnerships involved in that will not happen overnight, and patience is the key.
With the financial situation showing no great signs of improving, the threat of a double dip recession and the Eurozone in crisis, Mr McNeil said despite all this "doom and gloom" Moray had an exceptionally upbeat attitude and outlook.
He said the chamber remained committed to the Moray Economic Partnership (MEP), a collaboration of business representatives and public sector tasked with diversifying and strengthening the economy in the wake of defence cuts.
Significant investments have been and are being made in the key sectors of food and drink, particularly the whisky industry, manufacturing, fabrication and engineering within oil and gas and emerging supply chains of offshore wind renewables and life sciences, said Mr McNeil.
The creation of a special enterprise zone for the life science sector, together with an additional £15 million targeted at Forres Enterprise Park will make a huge difference to the level of business infrastructure available in Moray
Business Gateway in Moray has dealt with over 1200 enquiries over the last year and helped to start up 120 new businesses from across all key sectors, resulting in the creation of over 190 full-time equivalent jobs.
"These are all real, concrete achievements that will deliver lasting benefits for the Moray economy," said Mr McNeil.
However, he stressed that many challenges remain for businesses across all sectors.
"We need Government – in Edinburgh and London – to do more to create the conditions that will allow our local businesses to flourish.
"Release businesses from the burden of red tape, improve access to bank lending, invest in transport and communications infrastructure.
"Be bold," he urged.
Speaking at the chamber’s annual awards, Mr McNeil vowed that the organisation would continue to work hard for its members and the Moray business community.
"We will continue to show our support and commitment to the Moray Economic Partnership as we enter the roll out phase of the Moray Economic Strategy."