ALMOST €2-million funding has been secured for a Digital Hub and Enterprise Centre in Roscrea, that’s anticipated to create 192 jobs in its first three years and generate €8-million in annual revenue for the town.
A strong community driven campaign, coupled with bravery and a visionary idea to better Roscrea by a property development company, has resulted in a major funding announcement to create the new Digital Hub and Enterprise Centre in the Heritage Town’s centre.
Over €1.9-million funding for the project, which has been in the pipeline for almost two years, was announced last Friday, ensuring the development will come to fruition and create a new facility its creators say is capable of transforming the employment and entrepreneurial landscape of Roscrea.
North Tipperary Development Company and property investment and management company Tiernan Properties told the Tribune this week they “are delighted to announce the establishment of an enterprise and community hub for Roscrea.”
The new Roscrea Enterprise and Community Hub (REACH) CLG, is a multi-agency and community initiative set up to develop an enterprise and community hub in Roscrea through the re-purposing and renewal of a sizeable portion of the former town shopping centre.
REACH, which will be education and learning focussed, will have an employment creation target of 192 jobs within three years and its developers say it will create an estimated annual economic benefit of €8-million every year in Roscrea.
The 11,450 sqft commercial unit is vacant since 2011 but now will be transformed into an enterprise, education and community innovation hub, with the very best high-speed connectivity powered by a one gigabit broadband connection - putting Roscrea on the map in terms of high-speed technology infrastructure capable of nurturing start-up businesses.
Three-quarters of the funding for the €2.5 million project will come from the Rural Regeneration Development Fund, with Tipperary County Council also ratifying a €225,000 contribution at its September monthly meeting.
“The need for a dynamic project such as this that has the potential to deliver exponential benefit economic and employment benefits for Roscrea in the medium to long term has been growing over the past decade,” North Tipperary Development Company CEO Michael Murray said this week.
“Roscrea is a proud town with a lot of potential but, regrettably, the town and hinterland suffer from multi-faceted disadvantage. Of the 175 Electoral Divisions in County Tipperary, Roscrea is in the top 10% in terms of deprivation and there is little or no evidence of recovery locally, with the town gripped, in particular, by stubborn unemployment,” he said.
“So, it is clear that not alone is an intervention needed for Roscrea but that education must be at its core.
“We believe that REACH can be the difference and will act as a catalyst for the recovery that is long overdue in Roscrea,” Mr. Murray said.
In addition to the employment and economic boost the centre will deliver for Roscrea, an estimated 500 learners per annum will benefit from IT literacy skills development at the centre.
REACH will comprise 45 Workstations supporting up to 116 jobs as well as 16 Work studios (own door offices) that will support a further 48- 64 jobs. There will also be provision of shared services to all resident businesses.
Its developers say it brings together a “transformative multi-focused partnership to tackle the acute challenges experienced in Roscrea” and that by “forming an unprecedented alliance, the Directors of the operational partner REACH CLG and its Strategic Advisory Group combine the local and specialist knowledge, skills and connections across rural development (NTDC) IT and digital (Tipperary County Council, education (LIT and TETB), social innovation (LIT and NTDC), enterprise (LEO and Roscrea Chamber of Commerce) and community (Roscrea Community Development Council and Roscrea Lions Club).
Planning permission and a lease agreement for the property are in place and the project will have a climate change dividend as well, with carbon cost set to be reduced by having a local work base for commuters and remote workers.
Commenting on the project, Michael Tiernan, of Tiernan Properties, which owns the centre, said the facility has been idle for eight years and the vacancy was probably at the worst possible time for Roscrea.
“Roscrea was disproportionately affected in the downturn and has not enjoyed any real benefit from the recovery. REACH will be a game-changer in that respect as it will be both an employment and educational hub and we are delighted to have arrived at this juncture.
“This could not have been achieved without an incredible spirit of partnership and we are particularly grateful to the North Tipperary Development Company, Tipperary County Council, local politicians and other stakeholders who have come together to make this happen,” Mr. Tiernan said.
“While Roscrea and its hinterland can rightly feel neglected over the past decade or more, these stakeholders have come together to create a brighter future for everyone in this fine town.”
“One of the best ways to tackle unemployment in the long term is to invest in education and skills now. I have seen this happen and been involved in it elsewhere so I firmly believe this is a win-win for Roscrea and its hinterland. From a practical and cost perspective, everything stacks up as well as the project will cost 60% less than developing it on a new or green field site,” Mr. Tiernan said.
Welcoming the news, local Councillor and Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District for the Roscrea area, Cllr. Michael Smith (FF), told the Tribune the project had its origin in the local county council last April when the CEO, Joe McGrath announced his ambition to promote this plan.
“I was glad to be present at this initiation process and supported it all through. Roscrea like many other small towns needs greater support for employment creation opportunities. Not only do we have insufficient jobs to meet the needs of a growing population but too many have to drive long and costly distances to work.
“This will benefit local economies, the environment and the well-being of employees and business owners. It is a win-win situation for the town of Roscrea,” Cllr. Smith said.
Cllr. Noel Coonan (FG) from Roscrea echoed the welcome, stressing that developing IT literacy skills among all ages in the community will be of major benefit in Roscrea.
“People of all ages will benefit enormously from this new facility, which took huge effort put in by local representatives and the community.
“Technology is the way forward and I hope its the start of many more good projects for the town, when it becomes a nurturing ground for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses,” Cllr. Coonan said.
Tipperary’s Labour TD, Alan Kelly said the funding is “hugely positive news for the town.”
Deputy Kelly said “I am really delighted with this announcement of funding for the hub in Roscrea, it will make a real difference to the community there. A lot of work went into the application for this funding for the hub and I'd like to thank Leader and Roscrea Chamber in particular for their hard work and commitment to the project,” Deputy Kelly said, adding “there is massive potential for the hub, it is going to make a real difference to the town.”
Deputy Lowry met with Michael Murray and other members of the action committee after they looked for his input and he was delighted to assist them with securing the funds.
Welcoming the funding, Independent TD, Deputy Michael Lowry said the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund is a very important programme for communities in Tipperary and that “everyone involved in this project deserves credit and compliments on making this a reality.”
Deputy Lowry said several Community groups formed an alliance to seize the opportunity afforded by this National Development Fund.
“I am really pleased that after a period of stagnation Roscrea is the beneficiary of positive news,” Deputy Lowry said.
The funding for Roscrea is part of €7-million announced for three separate Tipperary Projects distributed as follows: Fethard Town Park €2,600,000; Roscrea Enterprise, Digital and Social Media Hub €1,925,546; Enterprise and Culture Centre in Templemore Town Hall €2,529,000.
Welcoming the funding, Deputy Jackie Cahill (FF) said his concern is that Fine Gael’s record on delivery for rural and social projects “is abysmal.”
This Rural Regeneration fund was launched over 15 months ago with €52m allocated to it, but only €14million of funds has been drawn down – representing a 74% underspend.
“I will continue to put pressure on Minister Ring to ensure that this funding is drawn down as a matter of urgency. Roscrea has been neglected for too long and this project needs to begin as soon as possible,” Deputy Cahill said.