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Business Networking in the Scottish Highlands and Islands

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jane Atterton


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One of the ways in which economic development processes within local rural economies are interconnected with external development processes and flows is through the networking relationships maintained by businesses. Through the use of a large-scale postal questionnaire and in-depth follow-up interviews, this study explored the geographical patterns of networking by businesses located in three small towns (Dingwall, Tain and Wick) in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The questionnaire revealed an interesting relationship between the location of a business and the geography of formal, business networking, with businesses in the most remote small town (Wick) maintaining the most localised networks. In contrast, firms in Dingwall and Tain maintained a higher proportion of their business networks at the regional and extra-regional scales. The follow-up interviews uncovered a number of reasons for these patterns, including the characteristics of the business itself (such as its ownership structure and sector of activity) and the origin of the firm’s owner (i.e. whether he or she was a local or an in-migrant to the town). The study also revealed the important influence of a range of historical, cultural and social factors on the geography of business networking. These included the geography of informal and social networks maintained by business owners (with these also being highly localised in Wick) and the differing responses of business owners in the three towns to the recent growth of the regional capital Inverness. With particular reference to the concepts of neo-endogenous development and embeddedness, the paper concludes by suggesting how the observed patterns may affect the future development potential of the businesses and, more widely, the towns in which they are located.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Atterton J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Submitted

Journal: Enterpreneurship and Regional Development

Year: 2007

ISSN (print): 0898-5626

ISSN (electronic): 1464-5114

Publisher: Routledge