Call for investment in Shannon region


THE NEW chief executive of Shannon Development, Dr Vincent Cunnane, said now was the time for the Government and Shannon Development to invest in key infrastructure projects in the region.

Dr Cunnane, a native of Donegal with a PhD in chemistry from University College Cork and a former lecturer and head of research in University of Limerick,was in Tralee for an introductory meeting with staff and business people at the Shannon Development headquarters in the Kerry Technology Park.

His visit came a week after Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan - who was in Castleisland for a jobs announcement - promised "a new dynamic" in the Government's regional focus when it comes to job creation and business support.

There was "no point in saying the upturn was there and we missed it. The upturn will come and we have to have the infrastructure", Dr Cunnane warned.

Shannon Development was drawing up a new strategy for the region from Offaly to Kerry to cover the period 2009-2013.

"We need one strategic vision we all buy into - not many," he warned. This vision was knowledge-based. But physical infrastructure - major roads, rail, air and broadband - needed investment, and "now is the time to be bold, innovative and risk-taking", Dr Cunnane said.

Shannon was involved in four major projects in north Kerry, including the technology park, the Institute of Technology Tralee, a business park in Listowel, the eight unit e-town of Tarbert and the Ballylongford site, where the country's first liquefied natural gas terminal had conditional planning permission.

Already with the Spanish electricity giant Endesa buying the old Tarbert ESB station, this area on the Shannon estuary would be an energy hub. Shannon Development had "another 350 acres" in the landbank they were going to develop, he pledged.

The marriage between third level and industry had worked for Limerick and it was working in Kerry too, where the technology park was on the same grounds as the third-level institute.

Regional development manger Ogie Moran said Shannon's role changed over the years. Years ago it was tourism, but it was always "property based".

"We use our property to get things moving," he said.

He pointed out the difference between Shannon and other State agencies such as Fás.

While the Minister was their boss, Shannon Development was self-financing.