A job creation ‘Think Tank’ which was held in St Mary’s Parish Hall, Lanesboro, on Saturday, last has been hailed as ‘a great success’ by those involved.
The event was coordinated with the help of both Longford and Roscommon County councils and the forum was the first of a public nature.
With a huge response both at home and abroad, the event kicked off with the promise of ‘radical change’.
“It was very, very good and my compliments must go to both Longford and Roscommon County councils as it was their initiative that brought us together, both Ballyleague and Lanesboro as a community group,” Joe O’Brien explained to the Leader.
The main aim of the ‘Think Tank’ was the betterment of the Lanesboro/Ballyleague locality through the creation of jobs and the improvement of the lives of locals as a result of ideas developed. The concept was first proposed as a way to deal with the recent lay offs at Bord na Móna and issues at Lough Ree Power in a positive manner.
Joe O’Brien explained: “Think Tank came about because of what happened with Bord na Móna and ESB.
“We looked at it and thought that we can either be negative about what is happening, or be proactive and try and get everybody together to come up with new ideas.”
It was hoped that any ideas would attract people who have left the locality in search of work and a more prosperous life, to contemplate returning to the place they once called home for a chance at a better lifestyle.
The event was facilitated by Longford’s Geraldine Steward, while there was also a talk from Grow Remote’s, Tracy Keogh, who focused on working remotely at home or in a digital hub with others. The benefits of working alongside others and not in isolation, regardless of company or role, were highlighted.
Joe O'Brien noted that there were numerous excellent ideas produced at the Think Tank event, some of which the group mentioned at a reconnaissance meeting with the IDA and Enterprise Ireland on Monday, September 23.
He said: “The meeting was absolutely excellent. The input, advice and direction we got from the IDA and Enterprise Ireland was brilliant.
“It was exactly what we were looking for, advice to help us level the playing field. We needed to know what to do and how to do it.”
Joe said: “We showed them some of the ideas which came forward from Saturday and they were impressed with them.
“We weren’t putting them forward until they directed us on what to do.
“We will be forming a couple of groups now soon, as they recommended.”
Joe admits they now have ‘a lot of work to do’, but expressed his excitement at some of the proposals from the Think Tank.
Tourism was one of the main subjects, with many calling for a greater utilisation of the River Shannon and local lakes and water sources.
Some of the ideas coined include the creation of a Seattle type scenario, where younger working generations are attracted to the area, the development of a localised digital hub, the development of Bord na Móna and ESB museums and interpretive centres, and the development of an Irish version of the Eden project in Cornwall, otherwise known as the Mid-Shannon Wilderness park.
Joe says the proposed Mid-Shannon Wilderness park, an idea developed by Donall Mac an Bheatha and Longford county council and backed by the ‘No to Derryadd wind farm group’, would help link the Midlands to the rest of the country.
He stated: “It would link Ireland’s Ancient east to the Hidden Heartlands and onto the Wild Atlantic Way.”
The ‘No to Derryadd’ group say jobs will be created through increasing tourism, leading to increased investment in shops, restaurants and guesthouses, and the creation of new jobs in park ranger and maintenance positions.
Cllr Joe Flaherty, who was in attendance at the Think Tank event, paid tribute to the work of the collaborative group.
He stated: “I commend the local collaborative group on a very successful event and in particular, Joe O'Brien.
“It is extremely heartening to hear the diversity of ideas and not surprisingly there was a strong emphasis on tourism and enterprise.”
Cllr Flaherty says there is increased excitement surrounding the opening of the distillery and the proposed food hub locally, noting that this presents a ‘real opportunity’ for the area to become a food hub of its own within the Midlands.
He said: “Traction is building behind the proposed food hub and with the distillery opening next year, there is a real opportunity to establish the town as a food centre for the Midlands.
“Around that then can grow so many other businesses.”
The work starts now for the group, however, the future surely looks bright thanks to the Think Tank.