An idea to transform the old Mearns Academy into an energy efficient artisan centre has been given support by members of Laurencekirk Business Club.
Local businessmen David McGrath and Tero Luomo presented the idea to members of the town’s business community on Monday night, explaining that their vision is to see the Laurencekirk site become a “destination location”.
The project would see local craftspeople involved in designing goods, which would be manufactured and sold on site, with an opportunity for visitors to see the whole process. The administrative side of the business, including sales, marketing and accounts would be housed in the building, and there would also be a cafe and gift shop.
Mr McGrath said: “This complex could generate between 50 to 100 jobs, create quality product manufacturing that could be exported across the UK, Europe and further afield whilst creating a very significant tourist attraction putting Laurencekirk firmly on the tourist map. If successful this could see a boost to the local economy of £7-10m annually in manufacture, services and tourism.
“The project is just a concept, but a carefully prepared one which if Mearns decided they wanted it we could have this. Mearns Business Club questioned the proposals in great detail and were unanimously in favour of such a project coming to the area. Much positive discussion ensued but there was recognition that much work has yet to be done to make it possible. We are entering an era where if we want things to happen we must make it happen ourselves, neither local nor national government will do it but will support local efforts.
“At this stage it is a well though through concept. Mearns has the land, infrastructure and more significantly many skilled people unemployed from oil. Can we muster the courage and will to make this happen?”
To get the project off the ground, Mr McGrath and Mr Luomo explained that they would need the backing of the community, and they need willing people to come forward to get involved in making the centre a reality. The land is currently owned by Aberdeenshire Council.