Comment: How crowdfunding brings business and communities together

Work has begun to transform a B-listed school building that has lain derelict for 12 years. Picture: contributed.
Work has begun to transform a B-listed school building that has lain derelict for 12 years. Picture: contributed.
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This month marks a historic moment for Oban. Work has begun to transform a stalwart of the town’s skyline, a B-listed school building that has lain derelict for 12 years, into a £3 million state-of-the-art community hub called the Rockfield Centre.

It is the culmination of four years of fundraising that had at its heart a community share offer to raise more than £210,000 towards this total.

The offer was launched by the Oban Communities Trust, a group formed to save the building made up of local businesspeople, part-time workers and volunteers who would run it not only for Oban but the wider Argyll and Bute area.

Oban took to it immediately and the cash was raised in record time. It drove us as a community business forward to seal the grant and capital works funding needed to realise our vision. The result is a markedly different future for this famous local building and Oban town centre itself. It shows the power of crowdfunding, and how it enables communities and businesses to work together for a common good.

The crowdfunding sum pushed the likes of other individual donors and legacies as well as organisations such as the National Lottery Community Fund and Historic Environment Scotland. As a result we reached the amount needed to begin in earnest.

As a trust, we are proud of where we have reached, ready to start work on something that began in 2014 with a campaign to save the building. Oban Communities Trust was established that year and the building was bought in May 2015. As a businessman it has made me realise the power of community backing and investment.

When the Rockfield Centre main building finally opens, it will show that a town like Oban has enterprise at its heart, with business, jobs, economic potential and local firms central to its potential and success.

Now we are ready to embark on a new and exciting life for the main building at the centre thanks to the support of our many funders and the wider community through the crowdfunding campaign.

The capital building work is expected to take a year, with the main building opening in the summer of 2020. The hut activities will then transfer to the much larger space ready to grow and thrive.

Oban is developing at a fast pace with more visitors coming to the town than ever before. With an increasing local population and a burgeoning tourist sector, the Rockfield Centre will be an important and vital part of our town centre – a focal point that will not only provide activities and facilities to benefit Oban and the wider area – but become a national destination as a centre of excellence across the board. Crowdfunding has paid a hugely significant part in this Oban success story. It is something other projects, and businesses, can learn a lot from.

Gordon McNab is chairman of the Oban Communities Trust and director of legal firm Stevenson Kennedy