Historic meeting held with IDA CEO and Minister Heather Humphreys
Drogheda Chamber has recently launched “Strategy 2022,” which recognises the importance of Engaging in National and Regional Planning & Development while creating and maintaining strategic and effective working relationships with relevant Government Departments, organisations and other key stakeholders to collaborate in a professional manner to drive positive change and planning for the future of the Greater Drogheda region.
Initially, this led to meetings with IDA officials with responsibility for Louth and Meath at which the Chamber also involved other key local organisations, including The Mill Enterprise Centre; the Love Drogheda Business Improvement District Committee and the Drogheda City Status Group.
With the assistance of local TD Fergus O’Dowd, this led to a meeting held in Dublin last week, hosted by Minister Heather Humphreys and attended by IDA CEO Martin Shanahan and a number of key IDA Executives, including Denis Curran, Head of Regional Development and James Boyle, IDA Regional Manager – North East.
Along with Deputy O’Dowd and Joan Martin, CEO Louth Co Council, the Drogheda delegation was led by Shona McManus, President – Drogheda and District Chamber of Commerce; Eddie Phelan, Civil Engineer and Past President at the Chamber; Peter Rowan, Executive Vice-President, Yapstone; Niall Kierans, Love Drogheda Business Improvement District and Brian Hanratty, Drogheda City Status Campaign.
Shona commenced the presentation by setting out an overview of the many advantages in doing business in the Greater Drogheda area and the pivotal role it has in the recently launched M1 Corridor.
“With a skilled workforce supported by nearby Third Level Educational facilities; unrivalled access and infrastructure including Ireland’s fastest broadband, Drogheda is one of Ireland’s best locations in which to work, rest, play and stay,” said Shona, referring to a recent endorsement by a Financial Times publication that identified Drogheda as one of Europe’s Top 10 emerging micro-cities. “This report rated Drogheda in the Top 10 for Business Friendliness; Connectivity and Economic Potential,” explained Shona.
Eddie Phelan then presented a map of the area identifying numerous commercial properties and sites which are ready for occupation or can be made ready in a very short period. He explained that this is a process being led by Drogheda and District Chamber to collate a range of potential property solutions to suit any FDI requirements or national re-locations and builds on a portfolio of properties already assembled by Louth County Council. The Chamber, in consultation with the IDA are hoping to meet with local auctioneers, property owners and developers to develop a full picture of what is available. “This process is already underway and interested parties should contact the Chamber,” concluded Eddie.
Peter Rowan, Executive Vice-President, Yapstone International a US multi-national payment processor based in Drogheda outlined how they have been partnering with the IDA for a number of years, initially starting out in a short-term rented office at Millmount, then taking up residence at Mill Enterprise Centre and then relocating to their current offices within Mellview House on the north side of Drogheda.
Rowan further stated that Yapstone since locating its International Headquarters in Drogheda, currently benefits from a rich and diverse pool of some of the best tech talent in the country. Because of the location, employees no longer have to commute to Dublin or Belfast to work on cutting edge technology. The same rationale stands for Yapstone’s other global offices located in Walnut Creek and Santa Monica California, and not in San Francisco or the middle of Silicon Valley.
Yapstone understands the deep economic impact they are creating by establishing in Drogheda. “Our hope is that we can help Drogheda follow in the footsteps of so many successful Silicon Valley spin offs by providing well-paying tech jobs, nurturing local talent, and empowering individuals to innovate and grow, and would be very supportive of the Drogheda Chamber Strategy,” said Peter. In four years, Yapstone has grown from 12 to over 100 employees, many of whom live locally.
Niall Kierans, representing the Love Drogheda Business Improvement District campaign, spoke on how attractive Drogheda was as a location to live, work, play and stay in. He referenced Drogheda's low cost housing, its vibrant nightlife and retail and restaurant scene, our coastline and the Boyne Valley. He elaborated on the many sporting offerings and Drogheda's rich history and heritage and the warmth of its people as attested to in its Purple Flag accreditation process. He referred to the successful hosting of last year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann and expectations that the upcoming repeat will in fact be even bigger and better.
He asked the IDA representatives that Drogheda should receive greater focus and noted that Drogheda Port - owned by Louth County Council - with seven berths has a larger tonnage throughput than the two berths of Louth’s only other viable port, Greenore
He suggested that efforts should be made to 'reverse engineer' the daily commute, particularly in public transport, where packed trains and buses made their way principally to Dublin only to return almost empty to then repeat the process again. Locating more FDI in Drogheda would help redirect some of this traffic in Drogheda’s direction.
He finished by saying that one of Drogheda's largest sectoral employer at present was retail where something of a 'demographic time-bomb' existed as local owners were reaching retirement age all around the same time, with no younger generation showing any interest in “picking up the reins.” Most if not all of these businesses will cease to trade around the same time. This will mean that there will be a significant demand for replacement employment options covering a relatively large unskilled sector. Plans should be put in place to counteract this likelihood.
Brian Hanratty, representing the Drogheda City Status Group addressed the rapid population growth in the Greater Drogheda area, saying that as far as Drogheda was concerned, the 2016 Census data was already obsolete. He cited that – between 1996 and 2016 – the population of Drogheda-LBM (Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington) grew by 23,868. This was more than the combined growth of Dundalk-Blackrock; Athlone; Letterkenny and Sligo - the other regional centres in “Ireland 2040.” Their combined population growth was only 22,582 in that period.
In the 2016 Census, Drogheda-LBM’s population was 52,828 putting it on par with the city of Waterford (53,504), but he said Drogheda and environs population was fragmented due to the Louth-Meath border dividing it. He also mentioned an analysis of FDI jobs per capita by county indicated Louth and Meath were well behind centres being prioritised in “Ireland 2040.” That analysis placed Cork; Galway; Dublin; Limerick; Clare (Shannon) and Waterford tops in securing FDI.
He referred to Drogheda’s 25 mile/30 minute catchment having a population of 750,000 compared to Dundalk’s 250,000 (of which circa 125,000 are resident outside the State in NI) and concluded by reminding the attendees that Drogheda had rapid population growth and that an RIAI Colloqium in 2015 effectively indicated it’s potential to become Ireland’s third largest city by 2050 after Dublin and Cork – but that it urgently needed housing to accommodate this and local jobs in an emerging era of climate change.
The meeting concluded positively with one of the parting requests from Martin Shanahan be that a unified submission from Drogheda to address the new IDA strategy be drafted and sent to him. This will commence immediately via the Chamber office in collaboration with the business, trading and retail groups and the public.
Speaking after the meeting, Fergus O’Dowd T.D. said that he was very pleased with the outcome of his recent meetings with the IDA regarding Drogheda’s future and its central role in the 2040 National Planning Framework as a Regional Centre for Employment Growth and population growth. Minister Humphreys and IDA CEO Martin Shanahan are fully committed to working with all Government Agencies, Local Government and Drogheda Chamber of Commerce to significantly advance Drogheda’s prime location for inward investment. “From 2015 to December 2018 there have been 36 visits to Drogheda by IDA Clients, with several further visits this year and as recently as this week. I am very hopeful for the future for inward investment in our town,” he concluded.
Further information from Shona McManus 087 980 4007