MINISTER for Finance Michael Noonan has said that the IDA will have “no problem at all” in securing an industry for Limerick city’s Hanging Gardens site once it is “kitted out” and that planning for it is “pretty well advanced”.
The Hanging Gardens development is one of several key projects in the city centre, according to the Minister, who praised Limerick’s growing enterprise.
During a recent visit to the Limerick Craft Hub, he said that the return of “reasonable consumer spending” is due to the recent strengthening of the city centre’s retail sector.
He added that one of the biggest announcements to come out of Limerick for many years was the news that Uber would move to the corner of Catherine Street and Thomas Street.
“Not because it was the biggest announcement, but because of the location. It has brought business downtown. We have been trying for many years to get business activity strengthened in the centre of the city. We have tried tax breaks and all sorts of things,” he said.
“The key to it now is to actually get people working in the centre of the city. And if they are working in the centre of the city, they will go out for the cup of coffee and they will hang around for a few drinks, and they will go into the shops and buy stuff,” he explained.
This, he said, will be “the driver” for Limerick city.
He said that the IDA has a “number of projects in the pipeline” for the Limerick region, but added that it is “very important not to rely totally on foreign direct investment”.
”We have the best land in the country around Limerick. There is a huge farming and food industry, and I would like to see more small food outlets. We have a potentially huge tourist industry, and you can see how big it is in a village like Adare. But it’s increasing in a place like Limerick city,” he stated.
He said that the Government is aiming for 6% unemployment in the region by 2018.
“The region got hit very badly, and if you look back on top of the other hits that every region in the country got, we lost 3,000 jobs in Dell, in one 24-hour period,” he said.
“That magnified the unemployment figures in the region. Shannon Airport went through bad times as well, and it was downgraded for a while. But things are picking back up again.”