These are some of the findings from the WDC Look West Campaign showing that the Western Region has a very strong appeal for a highly skilled workforce. Speaking at the launch of the WDC’s 2005 Annual Report, Lisa McAllister, CEO said “This is an important result – it shows that there are serious opportunities for employers as we have a large pool of highly skilled, enthusiastic workers who want to move to the Region to work and live. People see the West as a vibrant and attractive place, and by expressing their interest in relocating to the Region, it can help us all in our work to influence and attract inward investment and employment opportunities.”
She added “Sometimes, large indigenous and multinational companies think that they must locate in a capital city, but our work is clearly showing that educated, highly skilled people want to have good career opportunities in the Western Region. In just over three weeks, over 1,000 people have told us that they want to relocate to the West for a better quality of life and they want good career opportunities to match.”
Ms McAllister was speaking today (Monday 3rd July) at the launch of the Commission’s 2005 Annual Report by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Mr Éamon Ó Cuív at a function at Ireland West Airport Knock.
The WDC is the statutory body charged with promoting economic and social development in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.
Speaking at the launch Minister Ó Cuív said “In 2005 the WDC Investment Fund invested €4 million and approved another €6.9 million in companies across the seven-county region. With the European Commission’s approval of modification to the Fund’s state aid approval rules, the Fund was able to make €1 million investments in single tranches, and did so in Ireland West Airport and in Lightstorm Networks.
“Frequent scheduled air services are vital for the Region for both tourism growth and for industry. In tourism, the huge growth in short breaks means that air access directly into the region is a significant factor in people’s decision on where to holiday, while on the inward investment front the locating of industries is almost always linked to the accessibility of a region. These factors were key inputs to the WDC decision to make a strategic investment in the airport,” he added.
Lightstorm Networks, based in Galway, employs 29 people and is involved in leading edge silicon design. The company is at the forefront of developments in the Carrier Ethernet semiconductor market that will enable “Triple Play” (Telephone, Broadband and TV) services at very high speed to residential and business customers. It was a natural decision to invest in the company.
The new National Development Plan (2007-2013) presents real opportunities for the region to catch up on previous infrastructural deficits including roads, rail, broadband, and renewable energy. “Government needs to adopt a ‘highway mentality’ for the major roads linking key towns and cities in the Western Region, while on the Western Rail Corridor, the WDC believes that the real benefit for the Region will be seen when Sligo becomes part of the route.”
On energy policy the WDC has continued to emphasise the need for the extension of the natural gas transmission grid in the region, arguing that extending the gas pipeline to towns in the North West could have major regional development benefits.
The importance of networking through partnership structures involving key stakeholders working to a common strategic agenda has been advocated as a way of progressing rural regions in many recent high profile reports.
“The WDC’s Model of Rural Development goes beyond recommending the importance of a proactive approach to strategically network and progress private sector projects in rural areas, but shows from our experience how this can be done and what results can be delivered. The Western Development Tourism Programme is a good example of how strategic partnerships and joined up thinking can have a tangible impact on regional development. A key project delivered under it in 2005 was Walking in the West a step by step guide on how to deliver a world-class walking product in the Western Region. Through its tourism, organic agri food and renewable energy work the WDC continues its proactive approach on the ground avoiding duplication and creating added value for public investment a model which could be easily transferable to all development agencies.”
Commenting on all of WDC achievements in 2005 Michael Farrell, Chairman said “If you look at it like an economic equation; on the demand side, we have a pool of educated, workers who want to move to the West to live and work. On the supply side, we have identified the challenges and opportunities regarding infrastructure requirements for the region.
Where the WDC can continue to deliver in the future is by continuing to work in partnership with Government and other state agencies to deliver economic and social development to the Region”.
2005 – a year of achievements for the WDC
- By the end of 2005, the WDC Investment Fund had €15 million invested in 61 projects throughout the seven counties. 2005 saw two €1 million investments – one in Ireland West Airport Knock and one in Lightstorm Networks.
- The Look West Campaign raised the profile of and interest in the Western Region as a great place to live work and do business
- Policy analysis of infrastructure continues to be a priority area for the WDC. The investment of €1 million in Ireland West Airport Knock complements policy work in promoting the importance of direct international air access into the region. Other policy work focused on balanced regional development and analysis of energy and telecommunications policy.
- Throughout 2005 the WDC continued to coordinate rural development projects of regional significance in organic agri-food production, renewable energy and tourism. Tourism development projects include the Western Development Tourism Programme which launched Walking in the West – a guide to commercialising the walking product in the Western Region, and the Green Box – Ireland’s only integrated eco tourism destination.
Speaking at the launch, was Mr. Joseph Kennedy,Chairman of Ireland West Airport Knock.
"The role of the WDC in advising Government on which projects and policies it should support is very important. As a transport provider we know just how significant it is to have the N17 from Letterkenny to Galway and the N5 upgraded to dual carriage-way status by 2013; as a business in the region we know just how important it is to speed up the roll out of broadband, and the provision of better energy and utilities.
Without balanced investment in this region’s road and rail network including the Western Rail Corridor, this region will not only suffer but it will be a drag on the entire nation. When our customers from the UK and beyond come through the airport they expect a top class public transport and road network to the key gateways of the region. We must ensure that this is delivered so that, again, we can compete for more flights and more tourists to visit the region.
I urge our public representatives and everyone here to ensure that our airport, and indeed the West and North West region, gets a level playing field for this region.
I am aware that the WDC has recently provided a submission to the National Development Plan 2007 – 2013 and that improving international air access is a key recommendation in this document. The WDC recognises the important role that an airport such as ours has in sustaining and growing both the tourism and knowledge sectors of this economy. Close to 80% of all overseas tourists visiting the West arrive by air, and more business can be done in a region with good air access - so developing new direct routes into the region is our number one priority. Our airport is actively seeking to develop more business and tourism as we increase our flights internally, to the UK and further afield to Europe and the US. We hope that the WDC, and our development and tourism agencies, will get on board with us in getting route development and marketing supports off the ground. This has been successfully achieved in Northern Ireland, in Scotland and in Wales – so why not in the Western region?
But the story does not stop at simply getting tourists here. What are they to do when they arrive in the region? What can the West of Ireland offer as an attractive holiday destination? Again, many bodies and agencies are endeavouring to attract visitors to stay in the region against very tough competition in Europe and beyond. We would actively concur with the work the WDC, through its Development Department, is doing in the area of developing rural tourism and like them, we too recognise that it is essential that we develop year-round and indoor tourism products that are eco-friendly and sustainable. The WDC’s work in this area is farsighted and clever and it is these types of attractions that will stand the test of time. We need to develop more events and activities. This is critical if we are to continue to fill the planes, the superb accommodation, and restaurants and facilities we have, and are building!
We congratulate the WDC on the high profile and effective work they have been doing in the ‘Look West’ campaign. The West of Ireland is a great place to live and work, to rear a family, and I might add, a great place to travel from as well.
Ireland West Airport Knock, like many other enterprises in the Western Region, has benefited from the Western Investment Fund, which the WDC manages. To date the WDC has invested €1.317 million into growing and developing this airport as they know, like us, that improving access is a key driver of our region’s economy. We have used this investment for expanding our car parks and the catering and retail areas of the airport, which is evident all around you. These expansions were necessary as we grew more routes and catered for more and more customers and passengers. We thank you for these vital investments.
The Western Development Commission’s role in providing equity investment in this region is very important. Venture capital companies are predominantly based in Dublin and companies here suffer because their potential is simply not understood by city-based analysts. The Government would do well to recognise the expertise which the Western Commission now has in investment fund management and if it wants to channel more resources into the regions in the new National Development Plan then surely the WDC is the vehicle to do it?
We wish the WDC, the Minister responsible Éamon Ó Cuív, its Chairman Michael Farrell, the Directors, the Chief Executive Lisa McAllister, Dr. Patricia O Hara, Gillian Buckley, Fiona Candon, Theresa Higgins and all members of its hardworking team continued success and we look forward to working with them as a key partner in our future growth."
Go raibh míle maith agaibh!
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