Damien English visited Ardee on Friday and met with a host of local stakeholders to discuss a host of wide-ranging issues that effect the town – namely the lack of foreign direct investment in the area – telling his hosts “it’s there if you want it.”
The Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal visited the town at the request of local councillor and Ardee Municipal District cathaoirleach Dolores Minogue and spent time meeting with local elected representatives, volunteers, officials, Gardai, teachers, engineers and builders to discuss a whole host of issues that effect Ardee – and look at what solutions are needed to overcome them.
The visit was arranged by Minogue last month and she praised the Drogheda-born minister for his quick response and willingness to make time to come to Ardee and offer advice on how to go about acheiving the town’s aims, chief among the need to bring Ardee to the attention of IDA Ireland, the body responsible for promoting Ireland as a place for large international businesses to set up.
Among those in attendance at the DeeHub on Market Street were Fergus O’Dowd TD, Hughie O’Neill and Karen Duffy from Ardee Traders & Business Association, Johnny McGoey and Pat Flynn of DeeHub, John Kieran of the Ardee Community Development Company, Ardee Garda sergeant Paul Kiernan, Tony Finn, Seamus Rogers and Mary Jackson and Anthony Durnin from Ardee Community School.
Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie after Friday’s meeting, Minogue said, “I would like to thank the Minister and deputy O’Dowd for attending. Minister English really planted a seed that we will should be able to grow.”
While the Fine Gael councillor’s main objective in holding the meeting was to formulate a plan to put Ardee at the front of the queue as a home for new industry, a range of topics were discussed including housing, the need for a N52 bypass and educational supports.
“I wanted to know how we get can get the IDA to sit around the table with us and tell us what we need to do and what they can do for us,” Minogue told us. “The Minister told us we need to create a business plan and put everything together – why a business should come to our town. He told us the IDA is not going to come to us and the Government is not going to come to us. He told us we need to profile our area and get everything together – what we can offer as a town. ”
Among the speakers at the meeting were Mary Jackson, prinicpal of Ardee Community School. Looking at things from an education standpoint, she said that not all of her students were college bound and that there was a need for apprenticeships and jobs for those school leavers. Last year, 26% of Leaving Cert students in Ardee did not go on to third level education.
Ms Jackson welcomed the news this week of plans for more apprenticeships to be made available over the next trhee years. On Thursday, Minister for Education Richard Bruton announced details of a plan to see a total of 50,000 apprenticeship and traineeship registrations by 2020, as part of his Action Plan for Education.
English noted that there were an awful lot of areas that don’t fulfil the brief for IDA-like investment because they don’t have the skilled workers for the required job, saying that there was a generational gap and acklowledging it needed to be filled.
“It was very wide ranging and very collaborative. We had a broad sweep of people. We had business, builders, teachers, volunteers. We gave him a good idea of what Ardee has to offer” Minogue said. The purpose of the meeting was to be advised on how best to navigate processes – but also to garner ministerial support.
“This gives us ministerial support, and coupled with the support of TD’s like Fergus O’Dowd who was there today, it’s great news,” the Ardee Municipal District chair said. “The Minister told us that nothing is too big and if his department can’t help, he will make sure the relevant department will get what needs to be got.
“He will show us what avenues to go down – by no means do the work for us – but he will link things together at government level.
“It was a very positive and very informative meeting. The Minister came in and was a breath of fresh air. He told us we are nearly there and gave us that push,” she continued. Attentions now turn to developing a plan that can be presented to the IDA and for the push to bring big business to Ardee to ramp up.
“Today was about how best we showcase Ardee and Mid-Louth. Our next step is to sit around a table, get our heads together and get that plan going.
“We are open for business and we have a good business structure here. We have great schools, great roads, we have the workforce. Ardee is in a prime location. We’re on the corridor – Dublin, Belfast, Derry – we’re well, well capable of having these businesses in our area.
“”It’s there if you want it,” that’s what the minister said. We just need to have our plan. He really was a breath of fresh air in the room.”
Afterwards, Minister English took time to visit the Farrell Furniture factory on John Street for a tour of the facility.