JOBS ON THE AGENDA

11 May 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The devotion by Monaghan Co Council of the greater portion of its monthly public meeting on Tuesday to discussions relevant to job creation is undoubtedly a sign of the times.
Elected local public representatives and the administration of local government may have a limited function in the actual delivery of employment, but the need for the development of new opportunities in this sphere touches on all aspects of their work.
And, while providing jobs themselves is not the remit of our local authorities, it can be argued forcefully that they have a key and determining function in facilitating the climate that makes sustainable employment creation possible.
Those officials who administrate and implement planning law and regulation have an obvious role to play in this regard, but it is also very often the elected portion of a town or county authority who influence most tellingly the wider environment in which new enterprise can grow its seeds or existing enterprise thrive and prosper.
The elected man or woman does this, sometimes unwittingly, by the tone they adopt in the address of those issues that are relevant to economic development.
In business growth, particularly in the times that’s in it, perception can be everything – and if the picture painted through public debate and consideration of economic issues in Co Monaghan is a positive one, then it is more likely that the county will be perceived as being conducive to investment by either native or outside entrepreneurs whose innate creative spirit, even in the current climate, will thrive if given the proper encouragement and stimulation.
It was good, then, that the general tone of discussion at Tuesday’s Co Council meeting was positive.
True, the members did vent their ire once more at the poor record of the Industrial Development Authority in putting actual new jobs on the ground in Co Monaghan.
While their irritation at the refusal of the IDA Chief Executive to come to a Council meeting to debate this issue with them was understandable, perhaps the refusal itself was equally so given the hostility inherent in recent Council debates that had generated the issuing of the invitation itself.
More productive was the Council’s engagement with Mr Alan Gallagher of the Connect.Ireland organisation, which is leading the delivery of the ‘Succeed-in-Ireland’ Government initiative that seeks to tap into the huge Irish Diaspora as a wellspring for the visitation of new and sustainable foreign direct investment upon Irish shores.
The optimism general in the chamber was ignited by the almost evangelical expostulation of the merits of this project by Mr Gallagher himself, whose infectious energy and obvious commitment to the cause comprised a bracing tonic that would have an efficacious effect on the spirits of even the gloomiest economic soothsayer.
There is undoubtedly great merit in the idea that the many links Co Monaghan has with developing businesses abroad – by virtue of natives of this county being employed in their ranks – could be used as the catalyst for first contact for potential business expansion opportunities by foreign companies here.
Not the least of the idea’s attractions is that it would seem to give Co Monaghan a conduit with possible foreign investors that is not reliant on the mediation of the IDA or the other established job creation and stimulation agencies.
The simplicity of the idea is perhaps one of its positives, although the harsh realities being faced by businesses in most parts of the world at present, and the very competitive environment for investment that will undoubtedly be created by other counties vying for their share of the finite resources in the game once the ‘Succeed-in-Ireland’ initiative takes full hold, should not be ignored as possible impediments to this county’s chances of benefiting appreciably from it.
But our county is perhaps more advantaged than many when it comes to exploiting the opportunities offered by this project.
We have lately extolled the potential of our strong links with expatriate Monaghan communities in Canada, and the many thriving Monaghan Associations in major cities in Britain and the USA, as sources of great potential when it comes to tourism promotion and possible investment attraction.
Coupling these established but still under-utilised links with the possibilities inherent in Mr Gallagher’s presentation to Tuesday’s meeting might give Co Monaghan a head start in becoming a key ‘Succeed-in-Ireland’ locale.
The possibilities offered by the initiative deserve to be explored to the fullest, and we hope that Tuesday’s Co Council presentation will only be the first in a series of such expositions of the plan to local authorities and community bodies in our circulation area.
Also worthy of being fully explored was the idea put forward by Clones councillor Pat Treanor on Tuesday that a new cross-Border structure be put in place to address the economic development of counties and communities on both sides of the frontier.
Again there are strong existing linkages that could be exploited here – both through the co-ordination of the resources of the established cross-Border structures that are already in place, and by the revival of the contacts made some time ago by individual local authorities in this county and in Northern Ireland in the first flourishing of the peace process but which have in some cases been let slip into abeyance.
An efficiently structured new cross-Border entity could fulfil many useful functions in economic stimulation – not least by forming a conduit for the disbursement of EU development funding such as that available through the INTERREG programmes.
A common criticism of such funding sources in recent times has been the cumbersome application and administration process attendant to the accessing of aid and its delivery to projects in deserving localities.
If the administration of such funding was devolved to a regional body such as the cross-Border one envisioned by Colr Treanor, it would surely speed delivery of such assistance and make its attendant bureaucracy more slimline and cost-effective.
Much food for positive and stimulating thought on how our county’s job creation prospects can be enhanced emerged from Tuesday’s meeting – hopefully it will lead to a productive engagement with the Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton when he visits the county next week.

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