Following a lengthy presentation by Mr Jim Murren, western regional manager of the IDA to the members of Ballina Town Council on Wednesday night a number of councillors expressed their anger at the lack of development in the town over the past number of years.
Fine Gael councillor Michelle Mulherin was frank in her views: “To be honest and frank, the IDA stand here accused of failing this town during the boom years, and you’re talking about recessions now and it’s not going to make any difference.” Independent councillor Gerry Ginty told Mr Murren: “You spoke at length and said nothing. You’re in an unfortunate position that you have to speak for faceless people who don’t care about Ballina.” Independent councillor Peter Clarke expressed similar feelings: “I don’t take a great deal of confidence from the presentation, the IDA park in the town is 10 years too late in the town. I would put it up to Deputy Dara Calleary to stand up and deliver for the town now.”
During his presentation Mr Murren explained that the two main types of job that are being created in the country right now are in two sectors, information communications technology and in international traded services, and the companies which have come in recently have become focused on cities. He also told them that “grants no longer, despite what some people might think, play a major role in the location of the industry. The are looking for critical mass that you find in cities and attracting them to the rural locations is not easy.”
He also said that the IDA’s strategy at the moment was to support the growth and development of the existing companies and look for them to grow in such a way that their importance to their corporate business grows and reduces their mobility.
Mr Murren also outlined that the IDA is going to reapply for the planning permission for the IDA park on the Sligo Road outside the town to give it a change from just being zoned industrial to take in greener and sustainable industries.
Fine Gael councillor Mark Winters had a notice of motion on the agenda which called on the IDA to establish Ballina as a base for a centre of excellence in medical technology manufacturing and support services. Cllr Winters brought this motion into the debate and asked Mr Murren to promote this. He told the meeting: “There are 24,000 people working in this sector in Ireland and they produce 10 per cent of GDP, and in Mayo there are 3,000 people working in plants on IDA lands and 2,000 of those are in this sector. If we create a centre of excellence, we can attract these type of companies to set up training and research and development centres.” He also called upon the Government representative in the town to do something for the town: “In this town we have a minister with direct responsibility for this kind of thing and we need to see the political will to do it.” Fianna Fáil councillor Wille Nolan stuck up for Minister of State Calleary: “Our Minister of State is working very hard trying to attract jobs to the region. I know he has been talking to the likes of Hollister and Coca Cola and hopefully we will see some kind of announcement in the next month or so.”