The Western Development Commission (WDC) plays a central role in developing policy for the Western region and promoting the West as a place for living, working and doing business.
One of my key political policies is sustainable development and economic growth for the West. Job creation is essential for the future of our rural towns, villages and communities along with a better environment for us all to live and work in.
The WDC not only informs strategies for growth but through the Western Investment Fund provides risk capital for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in their start up and expansion phases.
The WDC is a major contributor to the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) Task Force, which I chair. The AEC has built – and continues to build – a powerful network to drive business development from Kerry to Donegal and all counties in between.
For its own part, the WDC engages on average with more than 200 businesses each year, helping them to secure funding through European and National programmes, including the Rural Regeneration and Development fund, which is managed by my department.
The WDC invests its own funds in SMEs, micro and social enterprises and leverages additional investment into the region. In 2018 the WDC invested €3.7 million in 22 businesses directly and secured €31 million in additional investment.
The WDC runs a range of funding programmes to support businesses that are vital to securing future jobs in our region.
“These include the Business Investment Fund that particularly targets industries such as clean tech, med tech, food and natural sciences.
“Other examples include the Micro Loan fund to support creative industries and the Community Loan Fund, which offers loans and bridging finance for community groups and social enterprises.
The WDC is targetting new tech industries for development with its Work Smarter Live Better strategy, which is offering nearly €50 million over ten years in structured supports for investment and lending to companies with a focus on innovation and technology.
It is important for the future of the West that we harness all our efforts to bring investment to the region.
With the increased opportunity for digital communications through the National Broadband Plan, we will also be able to attract more businesses to the Western region, which already has so many advantages in terms of quality of life and community spirit.