The bid to entice big business back to Ardee through the IDA has been handed a real boost by Minister Damien English’s visit to the town last week – with Ardee Traders chairman Hughie O’Neill saying a “feel good factor” surrounds hopes of new investment.
Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie after last Friday’s meeting in which the Fine Gael Minister for Housing met with local elected representatives, business owners, Gardai, volunteers and teachers in the town, O’Neill said English’s visit had brought a renewed vigour to hopes of attracting foreign direct investment to the area.
“There was a lot of positivity after that meeting – a real feel good factor,” he said. “I know it’s easy to come away with that unless you act on it but that’s really why I would be pushing it to make sure there is action after that.
“We need to get a meeting together of relevant bodies and get a plan together to showcase Ardee, what has Ardee got. The IDA is not going to come in and do the work themselves. We need to compile a portfolio and then present it to the IDA,” the Ardee Traders & Business Association chair said.
“The Minister gave us great ideas and encouragement. At least we know now, it’s structured and organised. It’s something to aim for.”
When asked what the immediate next step was in the process, he confirmed the matter would be discussed among Traders committee members before all parties pull together to formulate a plan. “That will be one of the things that will be at the top of our agenda (for the Traders) if it’s not pulled together before then. We won’t be dragging our heels, no doubt it.
“To do it right is going to take a bit of time, you don’t want to just throw anything at them but certainly we would look to do a good, thorough investigation into everything that’s good about the town and bringing all these things into account.
“He’ll push for us and you can’t ask for any more than that.
Just last week, Dundalk was given a boost in these post-Brexit times when Craigavon-based contract pharmaceutical development and manufacturing company Almac announced they were to create 100 new jobs at the IDA Business Park in the town.
“I think with the Brexit as well, I believe there are some companies in the North that want to stay in Europe and they could be relocated,” he said. Ardee would be well placed to act as a effective new location for such businesses south of the border.
“There’s so many good effects from it. I certainly saw it when Lee Jeans was there – a big employer. We have a couple obviously – Farrell’s, Ardee Coach Trim to an extent and you can see that too at Moorehall Lodge which is a big employer,” he continued.
“I saw when Lee Jeans was there and you had people spending in the town, there was money being spent and locals were getting work. There weren’t people commuting to work really. There’s a lot of people leaving Ardee to go to work in Dundalk and Drogheda and various places now. That would be one of the biggest factors.
“Having a big employer would help the town in every aspect. It would boost the economy big time.”
O’Neill praised the work of Ardee Municipal District committee chairperson Dolores Minogue who arranged for the visit of the Minister and also assembled stakeholders from across various sectors in the Ardee area to come and discuss what they needed
“Dolores co-ordinated this meeting and it was very, very good to get that,” he told ThisIsArdee.ie.
“There was a cross section of people in the room on the day as well which is a good thing. It opened up avenues. Mary Jackson from the school was there for example. There were builders and engineers. It opened it all up – rather than just retail and businesses and such. It gave it a much broader scope.”
After his meetings with local representatives and businesses at the DeeHub, Minister English paid a visit to the Farrell Furniture factory on John Street, a pillar of industry in Ardee for 56 years and Ireland’s leading manufacturer of contract furniture.
“We welcomed the Minister on Friday afternoon and he toured facility with myself,” Farrell Furniture Managing Director Paul Farrell told ThisIsArdee.ie. “He was genuinely impressed with our facilities and pleased to note that all our employees are from local area.”