When in Aberdeen last weekend, I walked through Golden Square for the first time this year. I was shocked to see the number of empty buildings with ‘To Let’ signs on them in this once busy part of town. I knew things were hard in Aberdeen, but this really drove it home.
The next day I posted a comment on LinkedIn, similar to above, with the question ‘I wonder what, if anything, can be done to stop the decline in the city?
I was somewhat surprised by the reaction to the post and the comments that were left by those who took the time to respond.
There were the obvious ‘we are all doomed’ comments but there were some very constructive points and examples of how things can be turned around within a city, Dundee being cited as a good and current model. Other suggestions such as landlords offering reduced rates to encourage new business and innovation were also popular.
Despite my question, I have a rather more optimistic outlook for Aberdeen and this is why….
Aberdeen is by no means ‘down and out’. Yes, the North Sea is in decline but this was the case before the oil price dropped and we should remember that the vast majority of business carried out by Aberdeen companies within the Oil & Gas industry is not related to the North Sea.
We have the talent, we have the products and we have the knowledge. These are three things that I believe mean that we are well positioned to survive what is undoubtedly a very difficult period for the industry and the city.
There is some fantastic work being done by both companies and industry bodies such as Decom North Sea and Oil & Gas UK. Yes, we can all do more but they are working hard.
Finally, and perhaps more importantly, the oil price will recover. While it may never return to the dizzy heights that we saw prior to the downturn, it will recover. The question is when?
So going back to the question that I posed on LinkedIn, what can be done to stop the decline in the city?
This is a question that a lot more experienced and intelligent people than me are working hard to answer, but at a very basic level I believe it is about teamwork. Not ‘collaboration’, not ‘partnerships’ but actual teamwork. From the UK Government through to the Operators, the supply chain and finally the people on the ground (or at sea) we need to work together as a team.
My company (The Clyde & Tay Group), for our small part, are developing the teamwork approach by engaging with companies who would traditionally have been seen as competitors, developing strategic partnerships and developing new and innovative services. Can we do more? Yes!
My profound hope is that I will walk through Golden Square twelve months from now to see a full and bustling business environment, I wonder if that will happen?
Paul Caruana is chief executive of the Clyde and Tay Group