Ardee has to “promote and profile” itself if it wants to bring big industry back to the town to try and battle the issues of unemployment and a floundering retail sector in the town, according to representatives from the IDA.
On Friday, four members of the Ardee Municipal District committee attended a meeting with staff from the IDA at their base in Dundalk to discuss what needed to be done to attract big scale business to the town. The meeting, first suggested back in June, finally happened after a lengthy to-and-fro between the parties and a cancellation last month.
Sinn Fein councillor Pearse McGeough attended, as did Fine Gael duo Colm Markey and Dolores Minogue and Independent councillor Jim Tenanty. The latter said it was “a good meeting while Minogue described it as “positive”.
“It was a positive meeting and we have started a relationship with the IDA, which is very important,” she told ThisIsArdee.ie. “We we were told we have to profile our town. The IDA know our town but they don’t know what it has to offer. They say we have to show what the town is about.
“We need to try and do a big job on it. Show everything we have to offer, a great profile. It would be a big undertaking,” she added. “If we profile the town, the IDA can take that further. But they won’t come in and do the work. It’s up to us to do the best we can.”
Minogue also said the IDA looked at the situation from a regional point of view and they claimed Louth was one of the best. However, Dundalk and Drogheda are the towns benefitting from the considerable IDA investment coming into the county, not Ardee.
“The incentive is with us to go forward from here,” Tenanty told ThisIsArdee.ie. “They have told us we have to ‘promote and profile’ the town.”
Tenanty stated that the councillors were told factors such as previous objections to industry and talents and skillsets of workers locally were taken into consideration by the IDA in deciding where to suggest new businesses set up in Ireland. The lack of hotel accommodation in the town was described as “a factor”, the Independent councillor said.
Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie on Wednesday, McGeough said Ardee suffers within a wider issue saying the border counties fare particularly bad when it comes to IDA jobs.
“The six border counties secured a miserable 839 jobs in 2016,” he said. “Out of a total of 18,627 IDA jobs across the country. The resources need to be put into the border areas. Obviously, the IDA has proved a very valuable tool in distribution of jobs across the state but they need to look north.
“Ardee is a prime location for investment with it’s roads, infrastructure and zoned land. Dundalk and Drogheda have secured IDA Investment but they seem to bypass Ardee. There has been one IDA visit to Ardee in the last five years,” he continued.
“The IDA can’t tell these investors to come to Ardee but more work needs to be done, obviously. There needs to be a concerted effort from all stakeholders to push this project. There’s a significant landbank for enterprise and business in Ardee that would attract and would be very appealing to developers.
“But you have to support the indigenous people who live in Ardee and support the town. A high tide lifts all boats,” McGeough added. “The meeting was an education. It’s worth having these meetings to try and to familiarise yourself with what’s out there. It’s a step.”
Figures released by the IDA this week show Ireland paid almost €93 million in grant aid last year to support employment from foreign direct investment enterprise – with Louth receiving €3 million of that.
Much of what the Ardee Municipal District councillors heard from the IDA on Friday echoes the words of Damien English TD when he visited the town back in January. Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie after his visit, Minogue said, “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.”
Ardee has suffered in recent years due to the loss of the last of what was major industry to the town. High unemployment rates have followed and the feeling locally is that the town has been left behind as major urban centres such as Dublin and larger towns like Drogheda and Dundalk have benefitted from Foreign Direct Investment.