Doing the business

7 October 2010 No Comments by The Northern Standard

It will be informative to hear the comments of the members of Monaghan Co Council in a number of weeks’ time on the new ‘Economic Strategy and Implementation Plan’ for the county presented to them at their October meeting on Monday.  The councillors were compelled by their schedule to forego debate on the strategy after it was formally presented to them, but they have been anxious to acquire what has become over their recent meetings a much anticipated document upon which the members of the Co Development Board and many of the county’s top business and community leaders have been labouring for some time.

Even cursory attention to the draft report discloses much substance for debate.  But the acid test for this strategy will be whether it can fare better than the small library of similar literature that has preceded it – and succeed in making a real difference to the economy that sustains us in our home place of Co Monaghan.

The cynical will suggest that if its predecessors couldn’t make much impact in times when prosperity was tangible – although more often than not tantalising in this particular part of the country – this latest economic blueprint, for all its worthy objectives, has little chance of success at a time when the national and world economy is so severely debilitated.

However, whether the new Economic Strategy succeeds or not, it has at least taken pains to avoid some of the mistakes of its predecessors.

A common flaw of undertakings of this nature is that the document eventually produced ends up being the be all and end all of the exercise.  What it should be, of course, is the starting point, and there is cognisance of this in Co Development Board Chairman Pádraig McNally’s introductory comment that, ‘Critical to the success of the strategy is not the production of a document but the establishment of a delivery mechanism to make it into a reality.’

That its creators perceive the document officially launched on Monday more as a useful by-product, rather than the whole point, of the exercise they are engaged in is commendable.

As a working document, or a work in progress as consultant Padraig Warren termed it, the report has intrinsic value, but its effectiveness must be judged against the ultimate product of the working groups and co-operative alliances that have been forged in its making. These are the people pursuing its objectives on a practical level and who, we are told by Monaghan Co Council, expect to have made significant progress when the strategy comes up for review next February.

At that point, those involved in the delivery process will have to answer the question the public invariably pose when undertakings of this nature are presented to them: “Where are the jobs?”  Employment features as one of the four focus points of the strategy – the others pinpointed are education and training, infrastructure and business – but it is surely the whole point of the matter, the predominant criterion against which any concept of economic stimulation will be evaluated.

What the report has to say about jobs in Co Monaghan is realistic rather than revolutionary – commendably so.  The employment landscape of the county is going through a major process of transition.

We are moving away from the traditional sectors that sustained our economy in the past and towards an uncertain, aspirational future where foundations must be laid for new employment forms, linked predominantly to the supply of services rather than the production of goods.  Fundamental changes in the nature of education and training available to young people in the county have to be made.

In this respect the recession has come at the very worst time for us, catching us in ‘mid-leap’.  As well as planning for a new employment future, we suddenly have to do everything possible to hold on to the jobs we have.

Agricultural and small business activity can’t be jettisoned overnight as ‘old hat’, because they remain integral to the character of the county and its community stability.

And, because of the downturn, every sector of employment is now confronted, to a greater or lesser extent, with learning the lessons of survival.

There was a time when Co Monaghan could rely upon its innate entrepreneurial acumen – the ‘can do’ attitude or the ‘Monaghan model’ as it is referred to frequently in this report – to smooth the natural evolution of our economy.  The county has been blessed with people with the vision to foresee the exhaustion point of particular forms of commercial and industrial activity well ahead of time – and the vision to identify alternative seams of employment that could be productively mined.  That vision is still intact, but there is no longer the climate of investment confidence abroad to allow it to easily actualise itself. Arguably, there has never been a more unfavourable climate in this region confronting those who have the ambition to start their own business.

There is no quick fix solution in the new Co Development Board strategy for any of these problems.  But what is evident from the document is that business leaders at a very senior level throughout the county have bought into the idea that coming together in an attempt to find the answers is a worthwhile exercise, and one they are committed to pursuing through the various structures that have been set in place.

Those who are successful in commercial or business activity, or who lead social development at community level, don’t generally have the time to waste on talking shops.

That so many have committed to piloting the various strands of this new economic initiative is the most compelling justification, and in the final analysis the soundest basis, for its ultimate success.

Along the way, as both Mr Warren and Co Manager Declan Nelson informed the Co Council on Monday, the businesspeople involved have found themselves doing business, availing of the opportunities for networking the exercise has presented for productive purposes.  It could be suggested, of course, that there is a self-serving motivation behind such commitment – but that would be entirely missing the point.

Doing business is what businesspeople – be they engaged in commercial or social activity – naturally do.  It has been the fundamental principle upon which economic activity in Co Monaghan has always been grounded, one that has pushed past political and geographical barriers and brought people of different communities and traditional together in mutually beneficial activity that has contributed immensely to harmony and co-operation at the essential, human level.

Beneath the inevitable jargon that obtrudes on the presentation of the new strategy document, the principle of doing business can be discerned as an animator of its objectives.  For that reason, it deserves careful consideration by the public in general, and, we suggest, by the members of Monaghan Co Council in particular.

The councillors are desirous of meeting Minister for Enterprise Batt O’Keeffe in the near future and if their delegation request is facilitated then the document they have been presented with should accompany them.  It encapsulates a powerful argument that chimes well with the advice being directed towards the Government by industry leaders this week in advance of the December Budget – namely, that positive stimulation measures for economic revival must make up a significant part of the remedy for the national economic illness.

We have seen this week that a broad and influential cross-section of prominent Monaghan people have been ready and willing to come together and ‘do the business’ necessary to lay the foundations for more prosperous economic times for their county.  The least they deserve in return is some recognition by the Government of the impediments in their way, and some assistance to surmount them in order to accomplish the daunting but laudable task they have set themselves.

Comments are closed.