The people of Lanesboro / Ballyleague received welcome news last week, with confirmation from Minister Heather Humphreys that €1.34m has been allocated for the establishment of a new Premier Lakeland’s food hub, which has the potential to create up to 90 jobs over a five year period.
The funds will be obtained from the Regional Enterprise development fund (REDF), which is an initiative of the government under Project Ireland 2040. It also aligns with the department’s future jobs Ireland plan.
The plans to develop the hub were first mooted back in 2016 by local chef Stephen Dowd, one of three directors of the new venture alongside Marie Farrell and Michael Casserly.
Stephen Dowd explained: “It is something that started back in 2016 after the Taste of Lakelands food festival.
“A couple of people got together and I put forward that we should design and create a food hub like that in Drumshanbo. Things evolved and time passed and we then had a feasibility study done by Riverwest management.
“That was completed at the end of August and at the end of September, we put together an application for REDF funding.
“We are delighted with the news of funding for the food centre of excellence.”
From early on, the idea was developed with the help of a local collaboration group or ‘Think Tank’ which involves both Lanesboro and Ballyleague. The team behind the venture then sought and received the support of Michael Nevin, head of enterprise with Longford county council.
The food hub, which is a joint venture between the local community, Longford and Roscommon County Councils and Bord na Mona, will see an overall investment of approximately €4.5m go into the project. As part of the plans, 4,000 sq.ft of the proposed facility will be divided into 4 start-up spaces of circa 600 sq.ft to facilitate new start-ups with 800 sq. ft. set aside for a community kitchen.
Stephen said: “We hope to develop four community spaces, incubation hubs, a community kitchen and a training suite.
“The other thing is the potential for an outdoors farmers’ market. This would help bring people together with local produce and help reduce the carbon footprint.”
Longford county council confirmed the hub will be located on their site next to the Fire Station on the Longford Road. The support of Bord na Móna is also being received, stemming from their diversification strategy in the areas of medicinal herb production, birchwater harvesting and leaf and root vegetable production.
It is now hoped that further funding will be obtained from the Just transition fund and Roscommon county council, to help push the project on.
Stephen said: “We are hoping that the new Just Transition commissioner, Kieran Mulvey, will give us some money from the Just Transition fund for the development of the area and job creation going forward.”
Stephen says they hope to create in excess of the estimated 90 jobs in the coming years.
He said: “We hope in the first year when we have it up and running, to have anything up to sixty jobs.
“Then you are looking at anything over 100+ from year four/five onwards.
“We are trying to tap into people that have left the area. We are trying to entice them back to the area and redevelop it.” he added.
Stephen and the team involved wished to thank everyone who supported the project from the beginning, including local Think Tank group members, the steering committee (Emma Brennan, Ciaran Mullooly, Michael Nevin), Bord na Móna for engaging with the project and supporting the feasibility study, Peter and Sheila Clancy (Lough Ree distillery) for their support, both Roscommon and Longford county councils and LCRL for grant aid provided.
He said: “Thanks to everyone for giving up their time. “We are bringing the whole area together, two counties.
“Instead of a divide we now have a connection.”