Flipping emigration: Leitrim leaders in US to encourage people to move to the county

Members of a mission to New York say there are plenty of work opportunities in the county - but more houses are needed

Leitrim will exploit the opportunities provided by its first GAA championship game of the season in New York this weekend to underline how the tradition of emigration from the county is being “flipped”, according to a former head of the IDA.

A high powered delegation from the county will showcase investment and job opportunities there, at a prematch function in the Bronx this Friday evening, in a bid to woo US-based entrepreneurs and skilled professionals to Leitrim.

Leitrim native and former IDA chief executive Padraic White said a combination of remote working opportunities and the availability of high-end jobs in Leitrim-based companies such as VistaMed and Cora Systems in Carrick and MCi in Manorhamilton were set to reverse a generations-old tradition of young people from the county travelling to the US in search of work.

“High-tech companies like Vistamed are looking for highly skilled people and they are looking anywhere in the world,” Mr White said. “Once we might have been networking to try to find jobs for Leitrim people around the world but we are now flipping that and doing the reverse”.


Friday’s event will be addressed by Lar Power, chief executive of Leitrim County Council, Brian Conroy, head of IDA North America, and Keith Dimmock, principal architect at software firm Cora Systems, which recently announced it is to increase its workforce by 300 in Ireland and the US. The Cora Systems executive is in New York in a dual role as he is also kit-man for the senior county team, who line out against New York at Gaelic Park this Saturday.

Enda Stenson, chairman of the GAA county board, which is hosting the event in conjunction with Leitrim County Council, said it was an opportunity to meet up with people of Leitrim and Irish descent to sell the county.

“It is of monumental importance from a GAA point of view and a clubs’ point of view because clubs are dying. We need jobs and good jobs that could sustain a family”.

It is estimated almost 500,000 Irish people living abroad, mostly in the US, have Leitrim roots and Mr Stenson, an Independent county councillor, said they would be tapping into that good will.

Emer Connolly from the County Council’s economic unit said Leitrim had the advantage of having enough available office space for hundreds of extra workers. The local authority acquired the former 112,000-square-foot MBNA premises in Carrick last November, having received €7.2m in State funding to purchase and redevelop the campus.

“We want to get the message out there that there’s a lot of space in our business campus for investors or anyone needing a second site,” she said. With over 200 people employed by Avant Card, which occupies 25 per cent of the campus, she said it was feasible another 500 jobs could in time be created there in a range of companies.

Both Mr White and Ms Connolly accepted that the provision of housing would be a challenge as Leitrim, which saw its population rise by almost 10 per cent in the last census, tries to attract people to live and work in the county.

The county council executive said it was already looking at a number of options including the Croí Cónaithe scheme, which provides grants of up to €50,000 for those refurbishing vacant derelict dwellings, while a master plan was being drawn up for Carrick-on-Shannon under the Town Centre First scheme.

The former IDA boss agreed housing was a critical issue and said Leitrim county council had commissioned KPMG to do a report to examine why “a booming town like Carrick with a sophisticated growing workforce” was not seeing housing schemes being built.

“There is no instant solution but at least an intelligent rational dialogue is starting with this report,” added Mr White.

Mr Stenson said there was no point trying to attract people back to the county if there were no houses available

“You cannot say it often enough – houses have to be built,” he said. “We have a lot of good companies but if people are going to come and take up jobs they need to have homes.

“Reports can only do so much. Action has to be taken”.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland