Sunday, September 13, 2009

Launching a local Economic Development Document – Getting Waterford Back to Work

This week I launched a local economic development document – Getting Waterford Back to Work. I believe the document is practical, deliverable and is a call to action. While the responsibility for causing the economic crisis lies squarely with the Government there is an onus on everyone to play a constructive part in helping to solve the problem. I am not prepared to sit on the sidelines and blame others without offering solutions.

Recent job losses in Waterford City have devastated the local economy. Job losses at Teva, Waterford Crystal, Bausch and Lomb and ABB have matched job losses in the construction, tourist and service area. Unemployment in Waterford City has risen by over 50% in the 12 months to the end of July with 12,744 people signing on, up from 8,383 in July 2008. The adjusted figure taking into account recent redundancy announcements will push the jobless figure to over 14,000.

There is no silver bullet solution and economy recovery will be slow at best. There are though a number of positive steps that can and must be taken to secure the long term economic viability of the region and the city. Waterford City must become the engine and the economic driver of the region. Undoubtedly Government support and investment in the city as the gateway of the region has been poor. Equally we must start performing more locally and lesson our dependence on action from central government. Therefore Waterford City Council must act as a catalyst for this by bringing agencies together and fostering local solutions to local problems.

I recently presented the City Manager with a document – Getting Waterford Back to Work outlining specific proposals that could in the short and long term help Waterford’s local economy stave off the worst effects of the economic downturn while also leaving it better placed to grow sustainably in the future. These proposals include helping local firms access National and EU funding, arranging a meeting of local bank managers to discuss in a transparent way banking practises, the front loading of key infrastructure and employment intensive programmes, moving forward with transport infrastructure plans, more regional spending in Green Technology, support for locally driven R&D as a new platform for job creation, revive crystal manufacturing in the city and the establishment of an educational taskforce to help those who have lost their jobs.

Some of these proposals need action from central Government. The single greatest act that would assist the region is the designation of WIT as a University. However most can be delivered locally. We need urgent action. We cannot sit on the sidelines and simply blame others. I hope my proposals will be received well. Now more then ever there is a need for Waterford politicians, civic leaders and communities to work together to ensure that Waterford City is not left behind

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