Plans to open a flagship digital hub and co-working facility in Athlone have progressed further in recent times with the appointment of consultants to undertake a feasibility study.
Following recent Government announcements relating to opportunities for regional towns to attract more remote workers and businesses, the project, spearheaded by Athlone Chamber of Commerce, could see the development of a state-of-the-art facility in the growth town to accommodate over 200 workers.
The feasibility study contract has been awarded to Kerry based Consultants HQConsulting, who already operate three hubs in the Kerry region under their HQKerry operations and are specialists in the development of coworking and digital hub facilities. The consultants will be supported by MCOH Architects from Portlaoise.
Welcoming the consultant appointment, Alan Shaw, President, Athlone Chamber of Commerce, noted the potential such a development would bring to the town.
“We are looking forward to working with HQ Consulting over the coming months, together with many stakeholders and interested agencies in the community. This project is about the future and one in a context where the work life landscape has been revolutionised over the past 15 months.
“We are in an exciting space and this feasibility study will hopefully set out a roadmap for Athlone Chamber in assisting with the delivery of a facility to accommodate the future in working spaces in this new era,” Alan remarked.
Echoing similar sentiments, Tom O’Leary of HQCoworking, stated that the digital hub and co-working facility would enable further quality employment in Athlone.
“Our intention is to identify if there is an opportunity to develop a Digital Hub and Coworking facility in Athlone town that will enable more quality employment in the area, and to allow remote workers and relocating companies to establish a base. The study aims to also identify the opportunity for new businesses to be grown out of the hub to support the wider economy,” Tom stated.
The study process will be completed in four phases, the first of which is a needs analysis review, which will look at demand and ongoing viability of a remote working centre in Athlone. It will be followed by a location and facility review and assessment which will examine the technical and economic assessment in the running of the new facility.
“Our experience shows that creating the right environment in the centre of towns for hubs to develop, has a knock-on effect for the entire town and becomes a catalyst for further jobs to be created locally. Our own hubs have shown that if you provide the right opportunity new employment will be created and the recent Our Rural Futures document from Government underlines the positive economic impact hubs such as these can have for a local economy,” Ken Tobin of HQCoworking, added.
While led by Athlone Chamber of Commerce, the Athlone Digital Hub and Co-working Centre will be advanced by a collaboration between statutory agencies, community and private bodies. The project is supported by the Just Transition funding along with Athlone IT, Westmeath County Council, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.
Gerry McInerney, CEO, Athlone Chamber of Commerce, thanked Just Transition and Westmeath County Council for funding to carry out this feasibility study.
“The aim of our group is to identify a suitable town centre building and deliver a dedicated green energy hub. This will provide landing space for large companies, space for SMEs and entrepreneurs to grow and also space for remote workers.
“We are delighted to be working with such experienced consultants and we look forward to their report in due course,” Gerry enthused.