THE first economic plan for all the county will see a focus placed on job creation in light industrial estates.
Hundreds of acres of industrial land previously owned by Shannon Development are to transfer into the ownership of the local authority - and with a new ‘one-stop shop’ for small businesses being set up at Limerick City and County Council, it is hoped to make it easier than ever for businesses to exploit acres of land.
GVA Consultants have been preparing a major economic plan which will be unveiled by Minister Phil Hogan on Friday.
As well as far reaching plans for the city, there will also be proposals put in place to get the county’s economy moving again.
But the council’s director of economic development Tom Enright has warned smaller areas may not see as much focus as city areas in the €300,000 plan
“Many people who live in the satellite towns around the city rely on the city for its services and employment. If we do not have the employment opportunities in the city, people will have to look elsewhere. Having a strong city with employment opportunities is of benefit to all satellite towns where there is no major industry at present, and there is not likely to be,” he said.
A plan for food production units outside Bruree was granted by county planners in early 2011.
But Mr Enright says due to the economic downturn, the €1m plan for 40 food processing units did not proceed.
However, a new company is looking to purchase this land for another use.
With responsibility for the County and City Enterprise Boards to be transferred to the new merged local authority next year, Mr Enright says the plan is to create a one-stop shop for local businesses to benefit - from securing planning permission to obtaining grant-aided funding.
“We will have a unit which will look after small to medium enterprises, and one helping larger enterprises. We will be working closely with the other enterprise agencies, and there will be a lot more of a co-ordinated approach to attracting industries,” Mr Enright explained.
Citing the Askeaton, Rathkeale and Kilmallock enterprise parks, which have lain largely untouched in recent years, he said: “I think we cannot look at one big industry: I think we need to developing smaller business parks. The costs need to be at a level, where it is seen to be encouraging, rather than discouraging development and industry.”West Limerick will be among the bigger beneficiaries of this plan, with major projects recommended along the estuary, tying in with the Foynes Port development plan, published earlier this year.
“There is great potential in renewable energy, and we have been very proactive in promoting wind energy projects in the county. There are huge benefits to communities in West Limerick for this. This will create jobs and provide employment,” he said.
Connectivity is also set to be a key in the economic plan - due to be unveiled at the Strand Hotel, with the importance of Shannon Airport and the Limerick-Dublin motorway highlighted.
Mr Enright also said the Foynes rail link restoration would be among the recommendations - and is confident this will happen.
He added the plan is a vision for the next 30 years - but he hopes some things happen much quicker, in particular the Opera Centre area in the heart of the city.
Many councillors have expressed fear that the county will be left behind as a result of the emphasis put on the city in the comprehensive blueprint.
But, Mr Enright said: “The county isn’t being left behind. But there are certain sectors that fit certain locations, and if we start fighting over where these should be, we will be at nothing.”
One thing which is set to benefit the county’s tourism is the move by Failte Ireland to locate 25 staff in the Granary, meaning that for the first time the agency has a presence in Limerick, having had the county previously managed from Galway.
“This will put a focus on promoting the existing tourist attractions in Limerick, including Lough Gur, Foynes, Adare, Ballyhoura. This will be of great benefit to the county,” he said, “County Limerick has a lot to offer, but perhaps an underdeveloped tourist industry.
“I think over time this will develop and become stronger.”