A Draft Economic Strategy for Co Leitrim aims to help encourage the creation of 1,000 jobs for the county over a six year period.
The Draft Strategy for 2015-2021, presented to members at the July Meeting of Leitrim County Council is part of a number of strategies being prepared this year to “position the county to maximise opportunities across a variety of sectors including the green economy, creative, food and agriculture, manufacturing and services, tourism and attracting new business.
The plan was described as a “living strategy” designed to grow and develop with the changing needs of the county.
However it was noted that Co Leitrim would have to be ‘plugged into’ a regional action plan and to bodies such as the IDA to ensure that the strategy worked to its full potential.
Giving a presentation on the draft strategy, Jim Devlin and Dr Pat McCloughan said that it was vital any strategy adopted be constantly monitored so that the plan and the Council could be proactive in terms of job creation opportunities.
The need for widespread fibre broadband was also highlighted as a major priority for job growth.
Following a presentation on the strategy, councillors cautiously welcomed the plan but asked how it could actually be put into action.
Cllr Enda Stenson said that a proper plan was vital because “Central Government isn’t doing enough for rural counties like Leitrim. Rural Ireland is being downgraded with the loss of post offices and banks, I hope that this strategy can counter this.”
Cllr Mary Bohan said that there were positives to the strategy but the delays in broadband provision, especially in her locality, were costing jobs and she could not see this being resolved by the 2016 time frame that some national suppliers had indicated.
“Something extra needs to be done on this for Co Leitrim,” she said, “if we don’t have the infrastructure and services, people won’t come and live in an area and the reality is we are losing these right now. There needs to be something in this plan to address rural decline and what we do to combat this.”
Sinn Fein’s Martin Kenny described the provision of broadband as ‘the kingmaker’ in terms of job creation and said this infrastructure had to be provided everywhere, not just in urban centres.
He pointed out that the Government was not creating jobs, it was local business people and he said that more needed to be done to support and encourage small businesses.
Cllr Justin Warnock said he welcomed the idea of job creation but said that figures were too conservative and the estimated 200 new jobs a year were not sufficient to cater for local graduates wanting to stay in their home communities.
His party colleague, Cllr Sinead Guckian went further stating that this was the first time members had the chance to adopt a vision for the county which would determine the future development of the area.
“A key part is the creation of 1,000 jobs but I don’t really see from this document how we’ll increase competitiveness or build sustainable jobs,” she said, adding she was disappointed the strategy didn’t include more on the creative and arts sector.
“I’m looking for key actions for jobs creation,” she said. “I don’t see that in this document at the moment. I think that we need to further consider this.”
Other concerns were also raised about tourism strategies, forestry and fracking.
The Members agreed to a public consultation on the Strategy. Members also agreed to host a further workshop in September to consider the outcomes of the public consultation process.
The Draft Economic Strategy 2015-2021 and the Draft Local, Economic and Community plan are available www.leitrimcoco.ie.
The Public Consultation Process will be commencing immediately.