Outgoing Chair commends collaborative work to harness potential of Mid South West Region
12th April 2021
The outgoing Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, which is leading plans to supercharge the area’s economy, has commended the ongoing collaborative work between the public, private and third sectors to harness the potential of the region through the Mid South West (MSW) Regional Economic Strategy.
Fermanagh and Omagh Councillor, Robert Irvine, reflected on progress made during his time as Chair as he handed the baton to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor, Thomas O’Hanlon.
Developed as a collaboration between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council, the MSW Regional Economic Strategy is centred on transforming the economic outlook of the region by boosting productivity, driving business growth, fully realising the region’s sectoral strengths and opportunities, creating more and better-paid jobs and ensuring the ongoing internationalisation of the MSW Region can be achieved.
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is represented on the group by Councillors Mary Garrity, Robert Irvine, Barry McElduff and Errol Thompson. Together with the other members of the Governance Steering Group, they are collectively responsible for providing economic leadership and strategic oversight of the strategy’s delivery.
The strategy, which stemmed from extensive research and analysis of the region’s economy and was informed by engagement with the major employers throughout the region, identifies challenges and opportunities and sets out four pillars to guide investment and grow the collective economy.
The pillars are: future proofing the skills base, enabling infrastructure, boosting innovation and digital capacity and building a high performing tourism economy.
Speaking about the MSW Regional Economic Strategy and reflecting on his time as Chair of the MSW Region Governance Steering Group, Councillor Robert Irvine, said:
“Since the launch of the MSW Regional Economic Strategy six months ago, the Councils have continued to collaboratively engage with businesses and other key stakeholders to identify and prioritise proposed strategic projects. The projects have been designed to maximise the potential of the Mid South West Region Growth Deal and stimulate long-term economic growth and prosperity by creating the conditions for more businesses to thrive, locally and internationally, by inspiring entrepreneurship and confidence to invest in the region.
“The proposed strategic projects will soon begin to move through the business planning and justification process necessary for all City and Growth Deals. These long term, high impact projects, have the potential to yield significant gains for our people and transform the economic outlook of the region by building on its creativity and innovation.
“I would like to thank the outgoing Vice Chair of the MSW Region Governance Steering Group and former Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor, Joe Nelson, steering group members and all those stakeholders across all sectors for their ongoing engagement, input and commitment to ensuring the ambition of the MSW Regional Economic Strategy can be fully realised for the benefit of all. I wish the newly appointed Chair and Vice Chair, Councillors Thomas O’Hanlon and Paul McLean well in their new roles as they drive forward the next stage of plans to supercharge the region’s economy.”
Speaking after his appointment, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon, Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, said:
“It is a privilege to take up the baton from the previous Chairs of the Steering Group, Councillors Cathal Mallaghan and Robert Irvine and to help guide and develop the work ahead. I would like to thank the previous Chair, Councillor Robert Irvine, and Vice Chair, former Councillor Joe Nelson, for their diligent leadership and commitment.
“We have much work to do but our focus has been sharpened by the Regional Economic Strategy and we will maximise every opportunity to help us reach our ultimate aim of supercharging this region’s economic fortunes. Through the collaboration of the three councils, we have the opportunity to play to our sectoral strengths, to address challenges impeding economic growth and to supercharge our economy for this generation and those to come.”
The newly appointed Vice Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, Councillor Paul McLean, said:
“The Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy is without doubt the most significant means by which we can stimulate and create long-term, sustained economic growth and prosperity across this region.
“We have already shown through our effective collaboration to date that by working together we are eminently more powerful and will be more successful in realising our ambitions as laid out in the strategy.
“I am looking forward to continuing to build on the partnership’s work in this new role, particularly with our key stakeholders across our business and education sectors”.
The strategy was launched in September 2020 by First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA and work has been progressing since then under the visionary leadership of the Steering Group.
Building on the Region’s sectoral strengths in manufacturing, engineering, agri-food, health and life sciences, tourism and construction as well as a fast growing digital tech sector, the strategy sets out a number of potential projects under each of the pillars which, with targeted investment, would help boost productivity. These include, for example, further development of critical road infrastructure; the implementation of a Skills Action Plan; the development of an Innovation and Skills Academy through the South West College and an Agri-Food Robotics Centre, at CAFRE Loughry Campus; enabling business development in Carn, Craigavon; delivery of a MSW destination tourism experience; and, further development of cross-border assets such as the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. These projects will be subject to further consideration and scrutiny as the Steering Group turns its attention towards the development of the business cases that will be required to secure a Growth Deal for the Region.
The Growth Deal, which is just one of the economic levers that will be required to support the delivery of the Strategy, is a medium to long term plan so it will be vitally important to manage the expectations of all stakeholders, who like the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, are championing the case for investment.
The Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group comprises Councillors Mark Baxter, Mary Garrity, Martin Kearney, Sam Nicholson, Robert Irvine, Cathal Mallaghan, Thomas O’Hanlon, Barry McElduff, Paul McLean, Kevin Savage, Errol Thompson and Trevor Wilson.