Ballinasloe has lost around 2,500 jobs in the past decade alone – and the IDA has admitted that would-be employers in the west prefer to locate closer to Galway city.
And yet, according to Fianna Fail spokesman on Finance Michael McGrath, the town had huge potential to grow, with top class sporting and educational facilities – but it needed to work at attracting more investment and employment opportunities.
The past decade has seen the closure of major employers like AT Cross, Square D and St Brigid’s Hospital while the workforce employed at Dubarry has been reduced significantly.
But Deputy McGrath, addressing local business interests and the FF organisation in the area, argued that Ballinasloe had great potential as it had a low cost base and a great quality of life and it was centrally located between the larger urban centres of Athlone and Galway city.
Deputy McGrath said that proper balanced sustainable development was vital for the regions and areas such as Ballinasloe in a bid to make them attractive places to live and work.
The meeting with the business community in Ballinasloe was organised by Roscommon-Galway FF TD Eugene Murphy who said that the town and surrounding area had suffered major economic setback in recent years.
“But there is a great community spirit in the town and there are real efforts being made at a local level to attract investment and enterprise,” Deputy Murphy added. The meeting was also attended by local councillors Donal Burke and Michael Connolly.
“Ballinasloe has in the region of €26 million worth of sports facilities, a strong schools base, a fabulous new library and prime office space so it could be an ideal commuter town based between Athlone and Galway but it is needs more funding at local authority level and needs to continue to attract more investment,” Deputy Murphy said.
The group paid a visit to the Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre in Creagh and met with members of the Ballinasloe Area Community Development Ltd including Seamus Duffy, Colm Croffy and Jacinta Divilly.
Mr Duffy outlined the efforts to create sustainable employment in the area and he noted that the enterprise centre had almost full occupancy rates at its Creagh base.
Cllr Michael Connolly said that there was an ‘overflow of medical devices companies in Galway city’ and Ballinasloe had a range of fantastic facilities including a beautiful marina which posed great potential in terms of attracting people to the area.
The meeting also heard that job opportunities were being created in Ballinasloe and reference was made to the success of Surmodics Medical Ltd at the IDA Park while it was noted that the IDA had an additional 17 acres of development land at its disposal and more work needed to be done to attract additional employment.
The derelict building and grounds of St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe was also highlighted as an eyesore in the town and there was much debate about its dilapidated state.
“The loss of a town council in Ballinasloe was also a major disadvantage to the area as Ballinasloe is on the periphery of Galway and having a town council helps bring a focus to a town and means that county council officials are in touch with the area and visiting on regular occasions,” added Deputy Murphy.