Carrick-on-Suir Tourism and Economic Development Committee members Patrick Lannen, Maurice Power, Patsy Fitzgerald, Anna Tobin, Niall J Walsh, Tony Musiol and Seamus Campbell
Carrick-on-Suir Tourism and Economic Development Committee (COSTEDC)’s #isupportcarrickonsuir information campaign aims to raise awareness about the need for public funding to complete works on two “uplifting” projects. These include the upgrading of the town’s Heritage Centre and the establishment of a Digital Enterprise Hub, a place where local commuters can share office costs and work remotely.
The campaign has been backed by candidates standing in the general election.
“State-of-the-art” renovation works have been ongoing at the Heritage Centre to maintain its structural integrity, following funding approval of €198,000 in 2017.
However, €750,000 is needed to see through phase two of the project, which aims to provide visitors with an interactive showcase of the town's history and people, according to COSTEDC spokesperson Maurice Power.
Mr. Power says a further €1.25 million is needed to provide the infrastructure for the town’s Digital Enterprise Hub. The business community also aims to raise an additional €500,000, broken into €365,000 working capital for the Heritage Centre and €135,000 for the Digital Enterprise Hub.
Work from home
The Digital Enterprise Hub will provide 15 jobs on the top floor of the Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District building on New Street in the coming weeks. It will cost €56,000 to fit-out this phase with the necessary equipment, which is being raised through grant and stakeholder funding.
Funding pending, a further 50 jobs will be created at another Digital Enterprise Hub location in the town, with the Friary in Carrickbeg one of the locations being considered. “Most people in Carrick-on-Suir and the surrounding areas are travelling to Waterford, Clonmel and Kilkenny to work. However, with cloud technology a number of them can work in the Digital Enterprise Hub, where there will be boardrooms for meetings and online conferences. It will suit people whose employers are happy for them to work using cloud technology,” Mr. Power says.
Transforming the town
The Heritage Centre and the Digital Hub developments are two of the 13 projects identified following a number of public meetings in the town. The Carrick-on-Suir Strategic Vision 2030 mission strategy was subsequently developed, with other projects including developing a Gothic Medieval Quarter incorporating the lanes off Main Street, Bridge Street, Westgate, the River Suir frontage along with Carrickbeg landmarks such as the Old Bridge and St. Mollerans Church; a Latin Quarter for Kickham Street; and a long-term project of building a new bridge over a 25-year span.
Mr. Power says the projects will make the town an attractive place to visit, live, shop and work. He says more than 117 jobs will be created from the Heritage Centre and Digital Hub developments alone, which will generate up to €41 million in local revenue in the coming years. “For every job that is created, there will be a ripple effect. More people shopping means more people serving them,” he says.
“Although they are two separate projects, the Heritage Centre renovations and the Digital Hub will complement each other and revolutionise the town. Funding would allow us to appoint a manager at the Heritage Centre, who will also act as the town’s tourism and marketing manager. We also plan to have a manager for the Digital Enterprise Hub, who will act as the town’s commercial manager.”
With emphasis on business and job creation, the Digital Enterprise Hub will provide mentoring and support through the Local Enterprise Office, local business leaders, and academic institutions.
“Our estimate of 117 jobs is probably very conversataive. There will be full-time jobs created to manage the Heritage Centre and the Digital Enterprise Hub, with more spin-off jobs created. We have costed this and spent over four years planning for these two projects. We have visited thriving enterprise hubs across the country and done an in depth review on how they are operated. We have a critical path analysis and our research is as good as anywhere in the State. We want people to start recognising that and to give us the tools to see out the job. We need support from those elected in the general election and financial assistance to see the projects through,” he continues.
‘Carrick a mini Kilkenny’
Mr. Power describes Carrick-on-Suir as a “mini Kilkenny with a huge amount to play for.” He says: “I remember a time when Kilkenny wasn’t anything like it is now. But it always had a medieval footprint, and it reinvented itself with the Kilkenny Arts Festival and tourism is now thriving.
“We have a tourism product here in Carrick-on-Suir with the Ormond Castle, the mountains, the Suir Blueway. But if we don't have someone to coordinate the project, it might pass us by,” he continues.
“We are looking at Carrick-on-Suir town centre as if it were a shopping centre, with the thriving enterprise that is SuperValu at one end and the Ormond Castle at the other with shops in-between. There are a number of shops on Main Street that are vacant. If we employ someone to go out and actively encourage people to operate in these buildings, we would transform the Main Street. A commercial manager talking to a tourism and marketing manager can come up with solutions for what the town is missing.”
Mr. Power says the developments are being driven forward by oversight group COSTEDC, which is made up of representatives from the Carrick-on-Suir Business Association, Carrick-on-Suir Development Association and Tipperary County Council.
Established in 2004, COSTEDC promote enterprise, economic and tourism matters. The forum allows collaborative discussions and planning to take place on a regular basis. There are three subcommittees covering enterprise, tourism, and retail and food consisting of 24 local stakeholders.
COSTEDC’s application for funding from Enterprise Ireland for the Digital Enterprise Hub was recently declined, and they are awaiting feedback on its shortcomings. Nonetheless, Mr. Power is confident that the town’s community spirit will reign supreme in seeing the Carrick-on-Suir Strategic Vision 2030 over the line. “It doesn't matter the situation you find yourself in. What matters is how you handle it. We have the team in place to turn this town around,” he says.
“This is community activism at its purest. We are only doing what the people of Carrick-on-Suir want done. This is the people of Carrick-on-Suir talking,” he adds.
Election candidates support campaign
Independent TD Mattie McGrath says the Government has “utterly failed to tackle high levels of deprivation” in Carrick-on-Suir.
“When this is combined with regional investment and health inequality across the wider South East, then the problems in Carrick-on-Suir are magnified,” he says.
Deputy McGrath believes Carrick-on-Suir has “extraordinary growth potential” if tourism is properly resourced and promoted.
Deputy Seamus Healy says successive Governments have “absolutely let down” the people of Carrick-on-Suir. He says the lack of jobs in the town is a “major challenge”, forcing educated and skilled professionals to relocate elsewhere. “A town which thrived on traditional industries has been neglected, like many other small towns, through concentrating development and services in cities and a few larger towns in an effort to force people to move there,” Deputy Healy says.
Deputy Healy calls for the “full weight of Government power” to rally behind the #isupportcarrickonsuir campaign. “Ultimately if the strategy is going to prove successful, we must get the Dublin bus service back and a properly functioning train service to and from Waterford. The poor public transport links are isolating Carrick-on-Suir,” he says.
Sinn Féin general election candidate Martin Browne calls for Carrick-on-Suir to be made a “digital centre” for start-up businesses. “Due to the lack of investment and job creation, Carrick-on-Suir has lost its best and brightest to Dublin and abroad over the years. This needs to be reversed as a matter of urgency and if elected as a TD I will make sure this happens,” he adds.
Mr. Browne also says a third bridge would take large goods vehicles off the Main Street and a second hotel would increase visitor numbers.
Fine Gael general election candidate Garret Ahearn, who is the current Mayor of Clonmel Borough District, says Carrick-on-Suir features “very high” on his list of priorities. Acknowledging the challenges facing the town, Mayor Ahearn promises Carrick-on-Suir the required Government funding to reach its potential.
“The Suir Blueway has given the region a great tourism boost. I believe we should build on this by investing even more in the Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel areas,” he adds.
Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District cathaoirleach, Cllr. Imelda Goldsboro, says the town’s people feel “very angry, disillusioned and forgotten.” She says: “The people of Carrick-on-Suir have lost their sense of place, forgetting what a great place it is.”
Cllr Goldsboro describes Carrick-on-Suir as a “hidden gem with great tourism potential.” She adds: “From meeting so many of the town’s people on the doorstep, who are the salt of the earth, I know they deserve to get the same support and acknowledgement as any other tourism town. It needs significant investment to be committed over a five-year period and a guarantee of support from public representatives to ensure everything that can be done will be done. This will create employment and attract investment into Carrick-on-Suir.
“Setting up the Digital Enterprise Hub will provide direct and indirect job creation in business and tourism sectors, and it will also promote and link the many attractions in the area.”