The South East Action Plan for Jobs (APJ) Implementation Committee meeting held on the 31st March, 2017 in the Haughton Building in IT Carlow, heard of some of the successes achieved since it began in January 2015. The headline figures include 13,000 net new jobs created in the region during that period, a good start on the 25,000 jobs targeted under the South East APJ by 2020. The unemployment rate for the region now stands at 9.4%, down from 12.8% in Quarter 1 of 2015. The South East APJ has a target to ensure the region is within 1% of the national average by 2020, a rate which currently stands at 6.6%.
The highlight for many at the committee meeting was the announcement of the setting up of the South East Greenway Project Office in New Ross. Headed up by Brian Galvin from Wexford County Council, the Greenway Project Office will develop and implement a regional strategy designed to take advantage of opportunities from recreational tourism. An integrated regional strategy, aligning to national tourism initiatives, has greater potential for economic benefits and job creation and is more likely to be successful in securing funding, the committee was told.
The regional approach taken to developing a greenway strategy was praised at the meeting. The South East APJ’s Industry Champion for Tourism, Liam Griffin, stated that the Greenway project for the South East was the most exciting tourism project he’d ever seen in the region, with the potential to deliver results across many areas of need, from job creation to rural development and connectivity.
The Director of the South East APJ, Sean McKeown, explained that completing greenway projects in the region will still require around €32m in funding. Once complete, this would create a completely off-road connection that will span from Rosslare to West Waterford and northwards from Waterford to New Ross and St Mullins on a greenway/blueway route that will eventually link all the way to Dublin and west to the Shannon region. A route is also under construction from Carrick On Suir to Cahir in Tipperary and this could potentially link up with the Waterford route in time. It is estimated, based on figures from the already established Great Atlantic Greenway, that there could conservatively be a return on investment within five years given the level of increased foreign and domestic tourists and the job creation that would result.
Liam Griffin noted that the regional approach taken by the various agencies and councils should serve as a template for the further actions contained in the action plan and was a symbol of what could be achieved with such joined-up thinking by the local authorities. The Implementation Committee chair, Frank O’Regan, former Vice President of Global Operations of Bausch and Lomb, stated that one of the next tasks for the SEAPJ was to develop a value proposition for the region and to start to market the South East as a great place to start-up or expand your business.
South East APJ:
The South East APJ Implementation Committee is chaired by Frank O’Regan, former Vice President of Global Operations of Bausch and Lomb, and its members include the CEOs of the local five local authorities, the Presidents of WIT, LIT and IT Carlow; along with executives from all of the key enterprise support agencies in the region, including IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Skillnets, Chambers, IBEC and the Local Enterprise Offices, and industry champions from businesses across the five counties in the South East.
The South East APJ Project Office is tasked with implementing the 194 actions outlined in the regional action plan for jobs and aims to encourage entrepreneurs and agencies to work together to develop further strategic actions that support business growth and job creation.
The South East APJ has 2 main objectives by 2020:
- Facilitate the creation of an additional 25,000 jobs in the region; and
- Bring the unemployment rate in the region to within 1% of the national average.
Greenway Project Office:
The Greenway Project Office is a joint initiative by the five local authorities in the South East Region. It will be based in New Ross and headed up by Brian Galvin of Wexford County Council. Further support staff will be supplied from the other councils in the region. Its remit is to develop and implement a regional strategy for the development of greenways and blueways.
A Greenway is a recreational or pedestrian corridor exclusively for non-motorised journeys, developed in an integrated manner which enhances both the environment and quality of life of the surrounding area. (Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport)
A Blueway is a recreational water activity trail that is developed for use by non-motorised water activity enthusiasts. It is defined by trail heads, put in and take out points and readily available trail information. (Waterways Ireland)