At the very best of times, a gathering of politicians and the launch of another “plan” is enough to make most of us head for the hills. And there were plenty of politicians in Naas, principally of the Government variety, for the launch of an enterprise plan in February.
Kildare North and Kildare South TDs Bernard Durkan and Martin Heydon were there, as you’d expect, along with Senator Anthony Lawlor as well as MEP Mairead McGuinness and Ministers of State Damien English and Michael Ring. And there were two senior Cabinet members present in Heather Humphries and Michael Creed.
The Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020, to use the official title, is interesting because it underpins the digital hub to be developed in Naas (beside the county council offices). The hub’s official title is The Mid East Region Innovation Think Space (MERITS). It’s estimated it will house more than 100 technology workers when it opens next year. It will provide an “advanced landing zone” with the aim of providing initial accommodation for projects leading to foreign direct investment.
It will also work closely with MaynoothWorks, an incubator facility which provides support for technology start up enterprises, particularly those which have the potential to interact with the Maynooth University.
MERITS will open as a new purpose-built “co-working” venue which is aimed at technology entrepreneurs and technology businesses, particularly those involved in the digital economy.
It will also act as a centre of excellence supporting tech companies in counties Kildare, Wicklow and Meath - the geographical area which the plan covers.
When completed in the third quarter of 2020 it will provide a workspace with state-of-the-art digital and tech facilities as well as access to real business opportunities and to the research and innovations of systems at universities and research and development centres.
Among the more interesting features of the document is that is addresses the level of commuting from the Mid-East region on a daily basis.
From County Kildare over 28,000 people were community to work in Dublin city and suburbs with smaller numbers from Meath (21,000) and Wicklow (19,000).
Councillor and ex-TD Sean Power (Mayor) stressed the need to create work opportunities in this area. There has been an increase in the number of workers who are looking for more flexible work practices and the number of people across Ireland looking for jobs using the term “remote” working increased by 170% in 2017.
The report acknowledges the implications of commuting.
These are the negative impact on the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well the ramifications for the public infrastructure such as transport systems.
There are implications for companies in the capital like staff replacement costs if commuting become unsustainable and the impact food the loss of talented and creative people from the Mid-East because of the stress of community. It’s interesting to note that not only is commuting highlighted but it's being recognised as undesirable for many.