Food strategy, energy park and data centres in new enterprise plan for Midlands
18th February 2019
THE Midlands will have its own regional food and drinks strategy under an enterprise plan launched by the Government last week.
Dr Anne Cusack, chair of the Midlands Regional Enterprise Plan, included the food and drinks strategy in a two-year, seven-point programme for enterprise development across Offaly, Laois, Longford and Westmeath.
Developing opportunities in “big data and data analytics” from the iLOFAR (telescope) and Stream technology initiatives at Birr Castle are also among the targets in the plan.
“The Midlands is home to many food and beverage industries of all scales as you know and this plan will include actions for the development of a regional food and drinks strategy and the development of a Regional Food Story to compliment visitor attractions,” said Dr Cusack, managing director of Westmeath company Critical Healthcare.
Ferbane Food Campus, where a number of businesses in the sector are based, will have responsibility for delivering part of the plan.
The first strategic objective in the enterprise plan focusses on the transition to a low carbon economy and renewable energy and each County Council will publish a 'Climate Adaptation Strategy'.
There will also be a feasibility study into the development of an “energy park”, aquaculture and herb products on Bord na Mona cutaway bogs.
In manufacturing, the plan aims to have a coordinated approach involving assistance from AIT, the local enterprise offices, the Stream creative suite in Birr and other agencies.
There will be a new strategy for the midlandsireland.ie brand, a regional network of “remote working hubs” will be developed and “Team Midlands” will be set up to pitch for additional investments in the region.
Dr Cusack said 19,000 jobs were created in the Midlands under the enterprise plan's predecessor, the Regional Action Plan for Jobs, which was chaired by Tullamore man Pat Gallagher.
According to the 2016 census, almost 24,000 people every day leave the Midlands region to go to work, school or college and 58.8 pc is the current participation rate in the labour force, compared to a national average of 62.6 per cent.
“Clearly there is capacity for increased economic activity and indeed investment in the Midlands,” said Dr Cusack.