By: Jean-Pierre Brien, Project Manager at Uist Asco.
I’ve been thinking about the role of a company in a small community lately as I have now been living in North Uist for almost 4 years. I work at Uist Asco, a seaweed processing and harvesting operation, that’s located in North Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It’s a vibrant community in a beautiful part of Scotland. I come from Nova Scotia (a.k.a. New Scotland), Canada – I studied Engineering in Halifax which is a medium-sized city with a population of about half a million people. From my vantage point here in Uist I get to witness first-hand the widespread contributions a company and its employees can make in a small community — the nuances of which are often not as apparent in a larger center.
Uist Asco opened its doors in 2012 and was acquired by Acadian Seaplants in 2017. Since then we’ve worked diligently to revitalize an old quarry site while making good use of the buildings and infrastructure here. We’re also proud to be making investments in the business, in our people and the community which all contribute to supporting the livelihoods of others working and living on the Islands.
Since 2017, Uist Asco has grown to a team of 9 full-time people and another 16 earning a living harvesting seaweed. Our people are based here on the Islands, but we have a large network of colleagues that spans the globe. We have other co-workers based on the mainland and we also work closely with our sister company, Arramara Teo, located in Kilkieran, County Galway, Ireland. Uist Asco has a great extended family that willingly shares knowledge, expertise, and resources. They say no man is an Island and I can attest to that fact every day.
It’s no surprise that large industrial companies are an anchor in small communities and that they support many smaller businesses. Companies have a tremendous multiplier effect with their direct support to vendors such as electricians, plumbers and mechanics to name a few. But they also support various side businesses as well that include restaurants, hotels and grocery stores. Companies can also provide a framework for supporting community infrastructure including ferries, transportation companies, roads, internet, and power.
While these things are important, what I believe may have even greater impact is the work that company employees do in the community. By providing equipment and tools to its employees, companies enable their people to create dynamic events where they live. Some of those activities include organizing beach clean ups, volunteering with local crofting associations, saving dolphins, volunteering at schools, organizing Robert Burns evenings and many other events which wouldn’t be possible without this employment in the community. Companies can also take steps to help children and young people in the area. At Uist Asco we provided assistance to support the pipe and drum band that got to travel to New York and by sponsoring our local football club.
But here in North Uist – I see that our people take it one step further. They make every effort to be environmentally conscious and respectful neighbors. Cleaning the shorelines and landing sites are regular activities for our employees. We all have pride of place and want to ensure the beauty of the area is always maintained. And we go even deeper – we regularly monitor water quality and scientifically assess the health of the local seaweed. We continue to improve shore access to the seaweed landing sites, not just for the seaweed lorries, but for the fishermen and community residents who use the sites too. We work every day to reduce our environmental impact and operational footprint and by doing these things, we help our community and wildlife stay in great shape for future generations to enjoy. I firmly believe in our company’s philosophy to ‘improve conditions where our people work and live and safeguard the marine community and its seaweed resources for future generations’.