THE very mention of Govan to thoroughbred Glaswegians will conjure up memories of our great shipbuilding empire. Yet such nostalgia will always be tinged with a certain bitterness regarding the industry's fate when Upper Clyde Shipbuilders went into liquidation on the 14th June 1971, with the loss of 6000 jobs.

However, Govan has been witnessing a rebirth in its fortunes. The official reopening of Alexander Stephen House, the former headquarters of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, will take place today at 11.30am. This coincides with the 25th anniversary of the world famous UCS campaign which helped to retain shipbuilding on Clydeside. A celebratory exhibition will be opened by the Rt. Hon. Tony Benn MP with writer Dave Anderson as MC.

Named after the Stephens shipbuilding family which built it, Alexander Stephen House has recently undergone an extensive #1.1m renovation. It is the third major project to be completed by Govan Workspace Ltd, a community company which during the past 15 years has redeveloped vacant premises in Govan to accomodate small businesses.

The company now has around 100 businesses employing 500 people located in the premises and the jobs total is expected to rise to 600 when the new property is fully let.

A major success story, Govan Workspace was set up in 1981 by local people who believed that the development of small businesses in the area was a positive way to create local employment. In May last year the company obtained charitable status - anyone is free to apply for membership provided they subscribe to the memorandum and agree to pay an annual subscription of #1.

The company's directors, other than the managing director, are non-paid and serving for a period of three years are elected from the wider membership. Currently operating three projects which together accommodate 100 firms employing around 500 people, the company owns all three sites which have a total asset value of #1.7m.

The first scheme, Six Harmony Row, began in 1981 and involved the conversion of a former primary school. The school, St Anthony's, had become obsolete following the opening of a new school in 1980 and consequently Strathclyde Regional Council was happy to negotiate lease terms, albeit on an experimental basis.

Refurbishment was completed in August 1984, creating a total space of approximately 20,000 sq ft divided into 37 small workspaces. In 1991, Govan Workspace purchased the premises from the council.

The second project, Elderpark Workspace, entailed the refurbishment of a large industrial factory - the Lyons Bakery. When its closure was announced in January 1981 with the loss of 300 jobs, local efforts to fight the decision were unsuccessful.

Govan Workspace set up meetings between Lyons Bakery and the Scottish Development Agency to discuss the possibility of part of the factory being used by a workers' co-operative with the remainder being converted to workspace. The Scottish Development Agency purchased the premises from Lyons and in 1988 Govan Workspace managed to buy Elderpark premises from the Scottish Development Agency.

Such property developments contributed significantly to the creation of local employment. The company's long-term plans to tackle unemployment remain even more ambitious. As existing mortgages are repaid, Govan Workspace will in later years become more able to direct resources to the promotion of local employment. This may involve providing support for local people seeking to move into self-employment, introducing innovative training schemes aimed at assisting the long-term unemployed or supporting the growth of tenant businesses which have the potential to create significant local employment.

The opening of Alexander Stephen is a major triumph for Govan Workspace. In 1989 when the Training Centre operated by British Shipbuilders in Govan became ``surplus to requirements'', Govan Workspace was approached by a group of BS employees who were considering a management buyout.

As a result Govan Workspace went on to acquire the training centre building from British Shipbuilding. However, lacking the necessary finance to refurbish the property at that time, negotiations were entered into with Glasgow Development Agency and Strathclyde European Partnership and work finally got underway in 1992.

The scheme had to be carried out in phases as the building was partially occupied, but everything was completed by December 1995. In total, #1.1m was spent on the property - grants of #540,000 were received from the European Union and #151,000 from the Glasgow Development Agency. Alexander Stephen House can provide space for 23 businesses in 17,000 sq ft and when fully let is expected to accommodate around 110 jobs.

The property itself had been lying derelict with demolition in sight. ``The building was old, tatty and derelict and was about to be demolished,'' says Pat Cassidy, managing director of Govan Workspace. ``We are proud to demonstrate that an old building can be given a new lease of life. I feel it is important to recognise that such buildings with historical value can be turned round to fit in with a modern context.

``We are very pleased with the results of the conversion - our initial doubts regarding the overall condition of the building have proven unfounded. We are enormously grateful for the help given from Strathclyde European Partnership who covered half the costs and Glasgow Development Agency who enabled the facelift of the building.''

Many well established businesses including California Cakes and Trolhurst Gas Engineers have set up home in Govan. However, Govan Workspace is pleased to welcome and encourage fledgling concerns.

With an inclusive package offered, the terms will be attractive to small businesses. For those starting up in these days of uncertainty, the monthly lease is most appealing. They also supply insurance for the building and a 24-hour intruder alarm system. Tenants simply have to get on with running their business in a freshly painted unit - drains, roofs and gutters are all taken care of.

At affordable rents, businesses can take any amount of size they need. Govan Workspace will offer potential clients advice on the size of premises they require.

``Some people may start off with something relatively small and grow from there. We have also found that people may move down to smaller premises before going up again,'' says Pat Cassidy. ``We like to be flexible in accommodation requirements - we are a user-friendly organisation.''

Govan Workspace also offers fully manned reception areas on each site with photocopying and fax facilities available.

``We feel we are bringing some life into the area and hope it leads to future developments. We want to create a new attitude - much of the surroundings are derelict but we hope to regenerate an interest in what was once a thriving area of Glasgow,'' says Pat Cassidy.

Certainly, with Barr & Stroud as neighbours in Govan, anyone thinking of relocating there should be on a winning ticket.