Athlone has the highest concentration of IDA supported companies in the Midlands region and has the potential to continue to attract more direct foreign investment, councillors heard at Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District.
Addressing the chamber, IDA regional business development manager, Paul Veale, told councillors that biotech, software and life sciences are currently attracting the most investment to the town. He said the number of site visits to Athlone continues to increase year on year, which is likely to lead to further investment in the future.
Mr Veale spoke positively about what Athlone has to offer potential investors. He praised the existing relationship shared between the IDA and Athlone Institute of Technology, both with the latter’s president, Professor Ciarán Ó’Catháin, and the heads of various departments.
He noted that potential investors are always impressed with the cultural offerings in Athlone, naming the Castle and Luan Gallery in particular. He added that amenities like the Greenway are looked upon favourably for the kinds of employees and the age demograph they tend to attract. Mr Veale said for those who favour an active lifestyle, Athlone fits the bill, and this is a real attraction for any potential investor.
Mr Veale did, however, list several areas which the council should look to improve on, with the current state of Church Street being high up on this list. He added that derelict buildings like that of O’Neill’s Bar create a negative impression for investors taking a tour of the town.
Mr Veale said that train schedules also have a negative effect when attempting to encourage investors. He noted that the earliest train coming into Athlone each morning arrives too late for anybody starting work at 9am to utilise the service.
The council’s director of services, Barry Kehoe, said plans for the rejuvenation of the street are currently out for public consultation and that he would welcome any suggestions the IDA might have in terms of the plans for the street.
The council heard that the IDA currently has nine hectares available for interested clients at the back of the Business and Technology Park at Garrycastle, as well as five buildings, and one further building that can be sublet.