CORK Chamber is urging the government to look at Skibbereen as a case study for other towns wanting to attract high-tech jobs.
Representatives of the Chamber paid a visit last week to The Ludgate Hub, the successful rural digital hub in the town.
Welcoming the delegation, Ludgate chief executive Adrienne Harrington said that Ludgate was ‘a beacon for rural innovation’ and has proven that with high-speed connectivity, location is irrelevant.
‘It allows us to compete on a global scale,’ she said, adding: ‘Ludgate’s success has been demonstrated by the fact that in the two years since our establishment, we have facilitated the creation of 100 direct and 140 indirect new jobs in West Cork, with persons relocating from Los Angeles, London, Vancouver, New York, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Pakistan and South Africa, as well as Ireland.
‘Ludgate itself is now home to 23 entrepreneurs, who run their businesses from our facility.’
Ms Harrington said that for companies exploring second site locations, Ludgate – which opened in June 2016 – was a natural choice, offering 1GB connectivity, a ready supply of talent, lower operating costs, available and affordable housing, excellent schools and quality of life that is second-to-none.
‘Cork-based companies Teamwork and Granite have been attracted by these factors and have developed bases in Ludgate, as has Dublin-based e-commerce support company xSellco who opened its Ludgate office in May 2017, doubled its staff within six months and is recruiting again.’ Cork Chamber’s director of public affairs, Thomas McHugh noted that the Hub continues to build momentum, adding that it should be replicated in towns across the region.
‘We need a national cluster policy to support enterprise throughout the country. Here is a working representation of what can be achieved when strong partners come together to invest in communities,’ he said.
‘The Ludgate Hub has unlocked the potential for people to grow thriving businesses unhindered by geography and offers a unique lifestyle away from the busier urban hubs without forfeiting any professional opportunities.’
He said that Chamber research has shown the value of clustering to businesses in rural environments. ‘It only makes sense for Government to investigate the potential of a national cluster policy to provide structure that compliments the many valuable clusters already striving forward,’ he suggested.
Ms Harrington added: ‘The Ludgate Hub currently contributes just under €13m annually to the local economy, contributing to a sustainable community here in West Cork. Ludgate’s impact is felt not just in Skibbereen, but in the dozen or so small, thriving communities such as the villages of Leap, Ballydehob, Glandore, Union Hall, Baltimore and Schull, where many of our members live and contribute to the local
economies and communities.’
Mr McHugh said that to truly empower our regions, we need to be more visionary as a nation. ‘We need to be targeting strategic locations to drive this concentration of growth. This is the only way we can facilitate the talent and enthusiasm of our regions to excel. Here we have an exceptional example of what can be achieved.’