Following a major economic study of Co Louth, a new Louth Economic Forum has today announced an ambitious target of creating 12,000 additional jobs in Louth between now and 2015.
The Louth Economic Forum is being led by Padraic White, former managing director of IDA Ireland,and has members from both the public and private sector.
The study, which carried out a countywide analysis and is blueprint for how Co Louth should target its economic activity, was commissioned by Louth Local Authorities and carried out by Indecon International Economic Consultants.
In the report, Indecon has also prepared specific proposals with regard to Ardee, Drogheda and Dundalk, with Louth’s overall population projected to grow to almost 190,000 over the next six years.
Welcoming the formation of the new Louth Economic Forum, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD, said that areas such sustainable energy, biotechnology, financial services and logistics have particular potential for growth in Co Louth.
“The same is true of tourism, given our great natural assets and accessibility to the major population centres and transportation hubs on the island of Ireland.
“It is also a fact that many of those living in Louth work elsewhere, and their quality of life will improve greatly with the creation of more employment opportunities within the county,” added Minister Ahern.
While acknowledging that the strategy is emerging at a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, Alan Gray, managing partner, Indecon, insisted the plan is realistic and takes account of the marked slowdown in the Irish and global economy since 2007.
“The business leaders we consulted while preparing this strategy are certainly determined to seize these opportunities, rather than rolling over in the face of the recession. Co Louth must now be prepared for the upturn when it comes.
“Areas where Co Louth has particular potential for employment growth include the internationally-traded services sector, which includes software development, business and professional services, and the science and technology sector, where there is potential in R&D and in targeted sectors including biotechnology and information and communications technology (ICT),” he explained.
According to the report, other sectors with significant scope for growth in Co Louth include food and drinks processing, logistics and distribution, retailing and e-retailing, e-Government services and tourism.
“Location is clearly a huge competitive advantage to Co Louth, both given its centrality to the Dublin-Belfast M1 economic corridor and ease of access to higher education institutions, as well as Dublin Airport and the commercial seaports within and close to the county,” Gray added.
Padraic White is confident that the public-private body can help drive Co Louth’s economic development agenda.
“Co Louth is fortunate in that there is an existing enterprise culture to build on and great potential to tap in more comprehensively to the network of approximately 15,000 people living in Co Louth who currently work outside the county.”
White explained that almost six out of 10 of those living in Co Louth and working in Dublin are educated to third-level degree standard or higher, thus providing a significant untapped pool of skilled labour for the county to draw on in the coming years.
In addition to today’s welcome news, Chinese company CIRS has just announced it is establishing its European headquarters in Dundalk with IDA Ireland support.
Commenting on the announcement, Minister Ahern said: “CIRS location in Co Louth underlines the tremendous potential that exists here for further development and, as economic recovery takes hold, job creation.”
By Carmel Doyle
Pictured: Drogheda, Co Louth