Council, chamber tackling issues contained in damning report of jobs and economy

bY dAVID TUCKER

Published 23/07/2016 | 00:00

Wexford Chamber of Commerce president Madeleine Quirke
Wexford Chamber of Commerce president Madeleine Quirke
Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright outlining the plan for Trinity Wharf, pictured below, in Wexford earlier this year
Wexford Chamber of Commerce president Madeleine Quirke

WEXFORD Chamber is to develop 'an action plan' to address the issues contained in a damning report on the region's economy and unemployment in the Model County,

In the Waterford Institute of Technology report Dr Ray Griffin and Dr Cormac O'Keeffe, its authors are critical of the government's South East Action Plan for Jobs, the lack of dynamism in the past from the IDA in the regional and low educational attainment, particularly in County Wexford.

Chamber President Madeleine Quirke said the two academics would be invited to the next meeting of the chamber board to brief its directors 'to fully understand the significance of the report for Wexford'.

'It is envisaged that this will enable Wexford Chamber to develop an action plan that will adequately address the issues raised in this report, which will subsequently be put to both the Department of Education and Skills along with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation,' she said.

The Chamber said that after reviewing the South East Economic Monitor report, it was clear there are some very important issues raised regarding the South East Region that need to be addressed as a matter of priority.

'It is evident that the South East Region is lagging behind our regional counterparts, both in terms of third level attainment and the lack of positions offered by multi-national companies,' the Chamber said in a statement.

County Chief Executive Tom Enright says it is imperative that the process to establish a Technological University in the South East as speedily as possible following the merger of WIT and IT Carlow.

Mr Enright was reacting to the WIT report which highlights that we are missing more than 7,000 higher education places and 6,000 IDA-supported jobs and the numbers of those attaining third level qualifications in County Wexford is among the lowest in the country.

'We are very much aware of the challenges facing us in the South East and in Wexford as the Council carried out our own detailed research through Maynooth University 18 months ago when we commissioned a Socio-Economic profile of County Wexford,' said Mr Enright.

However, he said that while the unemployment figures in Wexford are stark and lag behind the nationl average rate of unemployment, we have seen a real improvement and the unemployment rate continues to fall.

'We know from various studies in recent years and highlighted again in the WIT report, that the percentage of people from Wexford who gain a third level education qualification is one of the lowest in the country and this is particularly low in the New Ross and Enniscorthy Districts.

'I believe that the absence of a university in the South East is a major contributory factor to the relatively poor third level education rates and it is imperative that the process to establish a Technological University in the South East following the merger of WIT and IT Carlow is progressed as speedily as possible, said the chief executive.

There have been very few new IDA supported companies established in Wexford in recent years and while a number of existing FDI companies located here are expanding, there is a real need to attract new companies and investments to the county.

'A new IDA Regional Manager, Anne-Marie Tierney LeRoux, based in Waterford was appointed in 2015 and I know that Anne-Marie and her team are very active and working hard to bring IDA supported jobs to Wexford,' he said.

'We are seeing a level of interest and activity with the IDA in Wexford that has not been seen for a long time and I expect this to produce results in the short to medium term.'

Mr Enright said we know that the lack of availability of suitable properties, particularly quality large-scale office space is a deterrent in attracting companies to Wexford and the Council is advancing a number of property solutions to help to address this deficit.

'The new Innovation Centre in Gorey is well under construction and this building which can accommodate up to 300 people will be completed by the end of the year.

'Our plans for the development of a business park at Trinity Wharf in Wexford are attracting a lot of attention from both investors and companies and the Council is also progressing plans for new commercial developments in both Enniscorthy and New Ross,' he said.

Mr Enright said the local authority is stepping in where the private market is not functioning and 'using our resources and expertise in partnership with private investors to create the property solutions to help existing local companies to grow and to attract new ones.

'I believe that we have a real opportunity with the improvement of road connectivity with the construction of the Enniscorthy and New Ross Bypasses and the over-heating of the Dublin property and labour markets to promote Wexford as a great place to do business with an unrivalled quality of life,' he said.

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