The council is hoping that an injection of almost three quarters of a million pounds into a beleaguered fish processing firm in Whalsay will create up to 40 new jobs.
Full details of the financial package to save Whalsay Fish Processors Ltd., which currently employs 40 people full time and 20 part time, were revealed on Tuesday.
The £725,000 from the council’s economic development unit will be in the form of a working capital loan rather than a grant as first thought.
The company itself, which has been owned by founder John Tait for 40 years, has now been sold to an Aberdeen company, SCAF Ltd., which is jointly owned by Framgord managing director Frank Johnson and three other fishing industry figures, Stewart Black, Chris Bellamy and Andrew Charles.
Mr Tait, who had retired in 1995 but returned to a management role with the company in 2003, will now step down altogether.
The new owners intend to keep the company intact, including current management and staff, although all future sales will be handled by Framgord.
They will use the loan to buy new equipment to improve the plant and buy stocks under contract to fulfil six and 12 month contract periods.
In a statement, the council’s development committee said: “The current employment of 40 full time and 20 part time employees will now have long term security and the increased potential generated by the SIC loan will create a further 40 full and part time jobs.
“The loan is secured on the building, equipment assets and … frozen stocks. The loan has certain conditions attached, which the council require to be satisfied by the owners before it is advanced.”
Mr Johnson said that he saw great scope for development of the firm, which he said was blessed with good staff. He added that new business and supplies of raw material would be brought in, including organic salmon which will be marketed to the United States among other countries under the “Bonnie Isle” and “Island Queen” brands.
Mr Johnson said the excellent condition of the plant, which had been continually modernised and updated over the years, made up for the obvious disadvantage of extra transportation costs from Whalsay.
The amount was agreed at a special meeting of the development committee behind closed doors on Friday. No details of the cash sum were disclosed initially.
Whalsay Fish Processors used to process whitefish but is now a salmon processor which – partly because of the demise of small-scale salmon farming in the isles and also concerns over disease problems – primarily sources its fish from Faroe and Norway.
The viability of the long-troubled factory is of crucial importance to the Whalsay community and it received £60,000 from the development trust back in 2007 under an old scheme for improving fish factories. The same year it received £31,395 to modernise and upgrade the factory from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.