Fortune finally smiles on rural Ireland
It has been a good week for rural Ireland. The announcement of up to 1,000 jobs in Longford yesterday came on the back of the ending of milk quotas in the dairy sector. There has been a feeling that rural Ireland has in many ways lost out on the bounce in our economic fortunes over the past 18 months.
There is little doubt that the benefits of the recent upturn have been centred in Dublin and other cities. In contrast, the news from Longford and the dairy sector are very much stories based in rural Ireland. Any day that 750 construction jobs are announced for the midlands - with the possibility of up to 1,000 permanent positions at a later stage - has to be a good one.
Center Parcs is an established tourist resort operator in Britain, with a number of very successful sites mainly in the midlands and south of England. Its entry into the Irish market will certainly provide local holiday and weekend-break options for Irish families.
More importantly, it will give a serious boost to the tourism infrastructure of the midlands and will drive visitor numbers to what is a beautiful, but sometimes overlooked, region.
The development is quite likely to drive further employment in the wider local economy. It is a similar tale with dairy expansion. It is envisaged that milk output will increase from 5.5 billion litres to close to 7.0 billion litres by 2020.
This will not only drive exports nationally, it will also increase economic activity in every parish across the country. It is anticipated that up to 10,000 jobs will be created directly and indirectly, the vast majority of these being well away from the cities and towns which have attracted the bulk of the job announcements of late.
Balanced economic development across the country is a goal that is never easily achieved. The reality is that modern hi-tech industries are rarely keen on setting up in rural locations.
However, both the Center Parcs proposal and the dairy expansion show that economic development in a rural setting is possible where the initiatives are based on local, natural resources, such as the environment and agriculture.