My thoughts on the ‘Lets Build a Better Greystones’ Initiative:
Local businesses play a big part in our community; community is key for business in Greystones – that’s the big idea I took home with me from Wednesday’s “Lets Build a Better Greystones” meeting. However, it’s crucial that this co-operative approach is sustained in any plans to develop the IDA lands on Millroad.
Being someone who struggled to secure employment both at home and abroad I am determined to put my experiences, energy and expertise behind any project that brings employment to Kilcoole, Newcastle, Delgany, Charlesland and Greystones.
Enough about me – more about employment and what can be done to stimulate community and business development. It’s those three words again: Experience, Energy and Expertise.
It’s important that we evaluate what the town already has to offer – stunning natural resources and landscape, a vibrant and growing mix of sports clubs and community groups, great start up initiative and creativity, and a unique historical and cultural identity. The fundamentals are already in place. Where do we go from here? It’s important that as a community we look at our development experiences (replicate successes, be honest about mistakes) and also soak up the knowhow of other towns who have sought to develop their community and business life.
As a lawyer I would urge consultation, caution and care when entering any contractual arrangements – all stakeholders should be consulted (for example wheelchair accessibility for any community facilities; local business people having the option to lease units or leverage their visibility on the campus), all scenarios in the build phase should be explored and maturely provided for (we recently sustained volatile economic and social times – who would have thought that construction of Greystones Harbour would have coincided with both a (global) credit crisis and the bursting of a (largely Irish generated) property bubble? That was then, this is now.
When it comes to putting together a package that works for corporate backers, Government funds (to the extent there are any), community groups, education and research institutions and local residents and business owners we need to ensure that EVERY one is accounted for and NO ONE is left behind. Hearing how Kilkenny managed to get two universities to pool resources together and develop a research hub shows how getting buy in at the beginning and working together can make things happen – even in tough economic times.
If there’s one thing that came out of Wednesday night’s meeting it was people’s enthusiasm. It wouldn’t be in every town that you would find a group of 50 or 60 people going out of their way on a wet and miserable night to sit down together and discuss plans for their area. The willingness is there. Only the way needs to be nailed down.
I made the point that what could make or break a project of this scale is people power and participation. If, as some fear, the plan to develop the IDA lands as a centre of excellence for high-tech industry and innovation sounds great in theory but may not come to pass then we need to be realistic in how we approach it. How? Consistent community involvement and small wins along the way. The suggestion I made is that we would look at the business ‘clusters’ in the existing proposal, identify one or two for which we already (experience!) have a capability (example – organic food, arts and crafts or digital design studio pods) and focus on these to start with. Get that right and other things will start to happen. The Kilkenny County Manager referred to the point I was making as “Cross Sectoral Impacts”. People will hear about it, curiosity will bring crowds and/or custom and before you know it we’ll be on to “cluster” phase II! It is possible, we need to play to our strengths and galvanise our attempt with the energy we already possess.
Crystal clear to me on the night was the magical mix of backgrounds, trades and skill sets in our community – Self made entrepreneurs, teachers, financial services professionals, politicians and community activists to identify but a few. Be it in designing a brand name identity for Greystones, troubleshooting the financial hurdles or identifying strategy synergies and supports from and for the young, the disabled, the elderly, the creative, the dedicated. Everyone has something to offer – let’s keep it that way.
As a candidate for the communities of Kilcoole, Delgany, Newcastle, Charlesland and Greystones in the upcoming local elections I offer my experiences, energy and expertise for this and any other idea that creates employment, boosts local business and embraces community.
What part can you play?