Scenically set on the shores of the Moray Firth and with the beautiful River Ness running through its centre and beneath its castle, Inverness has always attracted people from far and wide.
From ancient fort to city status, Inverness has welcomed Pictish, Celtic, and English settlers amongst others, and today a cosmopolitan mix of residents and visitors give Inverness an atmosphere and buzz which is unique in the Highlands.
The Inverness area is home to over 65,000 people and is growing at an unprecedented rate. As the regional centre for the Highlands of Scotland, it is the administrative hub of an area the size of Belgium. It is also the commercial and industrial centre of the Highlands whose success is due to a dynamic combination of traditional industries, inward investment, innovative technology and a well-educated workforce. Major inward investors in recent years have included Cap Gemini, Ernst & Young, the and LifeScan (Johnson & Johnson Group). Many new services are available to high-tech businesses through the Green House Incubator business technology centre.
Tourism is a key industry with an estimated one million visitors each year, with the city being an excellent base from which to explore the world famous Highlands. A large part of the country's national tourism agency, VisitScotland, is strategically based in Inverness. Business tourism continues to grow thanks to a range of quality conference venues and excellent hotels catering for everything from small seminars to major political party conferences. There is a strong service sector that encompasses retail, public sector and professional services. Manufacturing remains an important sector with numerous companies in the engineering and electronics sectors. Commercial activities related to primary industries such as agriculture and fish processing are also important. Forestry is a key industry in a region where the foothills of mountains and the long glens make for ideal plantations. This, coupled with its situation at the heart of one of Europe's biggest wildernesses and the environmental sensibility that brings, no doubt accounts for the city's choice of Sustainable Housing as its theme, not just for the inaugural Six Cities Design Festival in 2007 but onward into the future.
Inverness, of course, was the capital of the Highlands long before it was granted city status. Its the home of both the cultural and enterprise agencies, Hi-Arts and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and played a central role in the organisation and hosting of Highland 2007, an ambitious year-long festival when the whole of Scotland and beyond were invited to celebrate Highland culture.
Inverness is well served culturally. The Eden Court Theatre, close to the banks of the River Ness, is the main venue in the region for plays, films, concerts and ballet. And with traditional music being such an integral part of Highland culture the city has a number of exciting venues including Hootenanny Ceilidh Cafe Bar. There's also a good choice of restaurants and people literally travel hundreds of miles to shop in Inverness. They're not disappointed.
Inverness is successful in attracting inward investment in a highly competitive global market due to a number of factors including a well-educated workforce, an abundance of land available for development and the high quality of life the city offers. These, more than good public sector support and access to a modern digital telecommunications network, would have been apparent to the perceptive young Ali Smith, one of Scotland's modern literary treasures. The digital factor of course would not have been in the equation.
The surrounding landscapes of the Black Isle with its picturesque fishing villages like Cromarty, the dolphin-traversed Moray Firth, haunted Culloden Moor and the vast Loch Ness with its archetypal Scottish castle and world-famous monster would undoubtedly have worked on her inquiring mind. The sense of history and geology is immense. But Smith also cites the fact that Inverness was and is its own centre, away from the southern metropolises of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The identity of Inverness grows even stronger as the world grows smaller through modern communications. Highland 2007 and the strong environmental theme for Six Cities endorsed this. All that's left to say is: surprise yourself, visit Inverness.