IT'S FULL steam ahead for Drogheda Enterprise Centre Ltd as Mayor of Drogheda Paul Bell turned the sod on the first phase of the project at Newfoundwell Link Road, Greenhills.
'I want to pay a special tribute to all of those who have had the vision and especially the determination to see this project reach fruition,' he said as the shovel hit the frozen soil.
'At a time of great difficulties in our economy, this is the third piece of great news for Drogheda in the past six weeks - following the announcement that Yapstone and NexTag will both be setting up businesses here in 2013, Drogheda Enterprise Centre, when established, will act as a catalyst for local entrepreneurs who wish to explore selfemployment and establish new ventures.'
Of particular significance was the presence of 24 Transition Year students from nearby Our Lady's College, Greenhills, along with their Enterprise teacher Ms Ruth Savage.
' They represent the future of our economy and it is hoped their presence here today at the birth of Drogheda Enterprise Centre will inspire many of them to one day set up their own new venture,' added the mayor.
Full funding on the initial stage, which is expected to cost €900,000, has been reached so work is forging ahead with the centre, which is expected to open its doors in September 2013.
' The key aspect to the event is that the Board of Directors made the decision to proceed with the project with 100% funding in place,' says project manager Sean McEntee, 'and the contract has been awarded to Ganson Construction, a Balbriggan-based company, which also employs local workers.
' Work has commenced already, and we expect to be able to welcome the first tenants next September.'
The first phase will house a public space, a community area, dedicated office space for rent, training rooms and ' hot-desking' space.
' It will run to around 7,500 sq ft, and the main funding for the project is from Enterprise Ireland, Drogheda Borough Council and the Louth County Enterprise Board,' adds Sean.
' There is also private funding from corporations such as Coca- Cola, Flogas, CRH, Murphy Environment, Mor Solutions, the Recruitment Bureau and Drogheda Chamber.'
The main driving forces behind the project are Graham O'Rourke, Eugene Kierans and Mark Markey, and there has been great support from County Manager Joan Martin.
'Even though the centre won't be open until autumn of next year, we will start our mentoring programmes in January,' says Graham.
' We will be delighted to help start-ups or those thinking of starting a business in the new year.'
' The main difference with us will be the training and support we will offer to those using the space,' adds Sean.
' We hope to attract a mixture of selfemployed and entrepreneurs, who may be looking to develop an original product, and just haven't the space.'
There will be no retail units or professional services offered from the centre.
' We also want to focus on helping young people by entering the schools, and focusing on youth unemployment, which is in excess of 25% in Drogheda,' says Sean.
'People from Drogheda, east Meath and south Louth will also be welcome to use the enterprise centre.'