There's a lot more to Wexford than strawberries and beaches
Over 100 people attended a meeting on building the Wexford economy, during which speakers described how only by making the county look and be its best can we attract major business here.
Organised by Fianna Fáil Cllr Michael Sheehan the meeting, entitled, 'Remodelling the Model County; Rebuilding Wexford's economy', was addressed by Patrick Murray, County Chairman of the IFA, Madeleine Quirke, CEO of Wexford Chamber of Commerce, Philip Scallan of Celtic Linen and Michael Moynihan TD, Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Communications and Natural Resources.
The meeting at Tír na nÓg, Wellingtonbridge, on Wednesday of last week, heard from Ms Quirke on how the county is growing and attracting business.
Mr Murray said there is huge potential in the agriculture sector, adding that volatility in the weather in other producing countries, and the cheap cost of growing grass in Ireland, puts it at an advantage compared to other countries.
'€364m is the value of agriculture output to Wexford and there are €500m in agricultural exports from the county.'
Cllr Michael Sheehan said the county needs far better access to energy like gas and to reliable Broadband if it is to compete with larger urban areas across the region and country.
Mr Scallan criticised the IDA's policy in relation to the county. He said for many people living in the west of the country Wexford is only known for its strawberries and its beaches, but there is a lot more to the county.
'One month ago the IDA launched a new strategy; they are an amazing organisation at the top of their game, however in Wexford we are on a little island with Waterford estuary on one side and the Blackstairs mountains on the other side but we need to point three fingers back at us. It's our job to make it impossible for the IDA not to create jobs here in Wexford, instead of saying that they're not investing here.'
Mr Scallan said the county has to look at be at its best right down to people keeping their houses looking well, if foreign companies are going to invest here.
'We need to make it so they have no choice but to invest here.'
He said Wexford has only 23 IDA jobs per 1,000 people compared to 56 per 1,000 in Dublin.
'There are ten urban centres with populations over 7,500 in the South East and we have four of these and we've the biggest population; it makes sense that we are the capital of the region, but the policy of the IDA is to focus on the single city, which makes sense in the west where Galway is the only major urban centre and in the South West where Limerick is the only major urban centre, but not here as the gap in population is not big enough with Waterford.'
He said the South East area's fantastic infrastructure makes Wexford an ideal place to do business.
He described how he approached Bord Gáis Networks with a view to getting gas piped into Wexford in 2008 and ws told it was impossible
'We will have gas in areas of Wexford town and Taghmon in June and in residential and business areas of Wexford by October 2016. The next challenge is getting gas for New Ross.'
Deputy Moynihan the county needs to develop its food industry and the government needs to ensure that rural areas are not forgotten.
An audience member spoke of the need to redevelop the region's beet industry which Mr Scallan agreed with.
'Wexford should be positioning itself as a food industry county; we already have Danone and we should be growing beet if it's viable.'
Cllr John Fleming was critical of the Ireland's Ancient East report, saying there is no mention of numerous historical areas in the county or of our writers.
Ms Quirke said: 'The initial reaction was one of disappointment but we are on the map and we know what we have to offer. Our problem is that we don't have one international focus. In spite of this we have to shout about what we have and sell it.'
Cllr Sheehan said there are plans for a Norman Conquest route stretching from Our Lady's Island to New Ross with 22 stops along the way.
Mr Scallan said Rosslare Europort needs to be developed, while audience member David Dalton spoke of the need to re-establish the county as the Sunny South East.
Brian Wallace spoke of the problem of emigration, pointing out that 21 young people living on the road from Clongeen to Wellingtonbridge have emigrated.