BY EMMA CONNOLLY
PLANS for a second Ludgate digital hub in Skibbereen will be lodged within weeks, and it’s hoped the new base, with 100 desks, will be operating by next summer.
The plans were confirmed this week by managing director John Field as an ecomonic report revealed that the 1GB hub in West Cork generates over €4.2m a year for the local economy and has created 54 new jobs directly and 38 indirectly.
The study, by economist Jim Power for Vodafone, says a similar digital hub in every county in Ireland could generate over 1,000 new businesses and 8,400 new jobs.
The study was undertaken to assess how ‘smart’ working – flexible or remote working from home or a hub – can help rural communities thrive in a meaningful way.
It found that Skibbereen’s Ludgate, which was launched in 2015, and opened for business in early 2016, is home to 21 businesses, or 75 people, with net wages of €2.81m, providing €0.71m in taxes for the exchequer.
Industries supported include tech, bio-economy, aviation services, e-commerce and media production.
Oliver Farrell, chairman of Vilicom, based in Ludgate, said: ‘The hub has facilitated the employment of more people here. We are now able to make our life and employment within the town and we bring our families with us so there are more children in the schools.’
Wendy Wilde of xSellco added: ‘We employ young, local people, they’ve stayed in Skibbereen. They’re bringing their skills, their salary and everything else. They stay in the local area and they don’t have to move to Dublin or Cork to get a good quality career.’
John Field said work on ‘Ludgate Two’ in the upper convent school building in the town will start as soon as planning is secured. It will be a similar model to the existing hub.
‘There’s plenty of space there and it will be very good for Skibbereen. We’d hope it would be open by May, June or July next year,’ said John.
Other hubs assessed were in Drogheda, Kilkenny, Tralee, Dundalk and Carlow.
Each of these digital hubs are already making significant contributions to the local economies and communities in which they operate. In terms of financial contribution, the combined economic data collected from each of the six hubs involved in the report reveals that they employ 462 people, host 176 businesses, contribute €27.3m to the economy and €18.2m in net wages earned.
All of the digital hubs are operating at, or close to, full capacity and all want to expand their physical space further to satisfy significant growing demand.
Economist Jim Power, said: ‘In a world where issues such as climate change, congestion, more balanced regional economic growth and development, and quality of life are becoming increasingly important and topical, the contribution that remote working will make to addressing these problems is very significant. With proper connectivity, there is no reason why remote working cannot grow in significance. This will benefit local economies, the environment and the well-being of employees and business owners. It is an unambiguous win-win situation.’