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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Regeneration – opportunities for growth

Today I attended a Waterford conference titled Regeneration – opportunities for growth. The conference discussed a diverse range of topics such as the power of collaboration, revitalising the city and looking at opportunities for growth with a clear focus on regeneration. We heard from speakers from Norwich in the UK and Derry City in the North.

  The synergies between Norwich, Derry and Waterford are interesting. They are all medieval walled cities with a strong heritage. The similarities between Derry and Waterford are striking. There is a real case to be made for Waterford to twin with Derry. The speaker from Derry was Dr. Aideen McGinley who has been hugely instrumental in the rejuvenation of Derry. She was part of a team who devised a comprehensive development plan for Derry titled One City – One Plan – One voice.

Waterford City is undergoing significant regeneration. The development of the Viking Triangle, the prominence of the House of Waterford Crystal and the rejuvenation of our quays are all wonderful propositions. The city has upped its game on festivals and as the recent harvest festival showed this is already paying dividends. The tourism product is being developed further and this will yield significant benefits to the city.

We now need to look at other key opportunities for growth. We still have over 14,500 people in Waterford out of work. We need to play to our strengths and plan for the jobs of tomorrow. If we fail to plan we will fail to deliver. Waterford has obvious strengths in the tourism, pharmaceutical, science and I.T. sectors. We need to develop these further. I also believe there are opportunities in eco-innovation, the Green economy, eco-tourism and the digital media sector. Interestingly these are sectors Derry has also earmarked as potential growth areas.

We need to ask ourselves – are we getting enough in these key areas? Is there potential for growth? Are we getting the desired outcomes from the significant investment made in research and development at Waterford Institute of Technology? Are we creating the enterprise opportunities our social, educational and physical infrastructure merit? These are important questions that we need to address.

We must also avoid putting all our eggs in one basket. The continued attraction of foreign direct investment is important but realistically growth will emerge in indigenous micro enterprises. The green economy and digital media sectors provide realistic opportunities here as does tourism (including eco-tourism) and food and crafts. Waterford has a lot to offer and a lot is happening. However we need to do more as we still have far too many people out of work.

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