I call on the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, to ensure that the funding application for a community enterprise centre in Farranfore be given priority in the interests of balanced regional development.
Farranfore is unique in that it is the only location in the country with access to an airport, national roads and a railway. Kerry County Council has designated it as being crucial to the development of the Tralee-Killarney hub under the national spatial strategy, but it is a CLÁR area due to its depopulation since the foundation of the State. Recently, a group of active stakeholders, including local community groups and the local development partnership with the support of the council, Kerry County Enterprise Board, Leader and many other actors, submitted an application for funding under the 2007 community enterprise scheme to Enterprise Ireland. It is imperative that the funding be secured during this round, as the window of opportunity is open for development. If the initiative gets support, it will be a catalyst for excellent enterprise development in County Kerry and the mid-Kerry area in particular. At full capacity, the centre will generate more than 60 jobs on site.
The initiative has the support of many local stakeholders, including the management of the airport, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years. As part of a local twinning project that has received local government and EU support, business development associations in Brittany have been consulted with to develop international trade links. Discussions to date have been positive in that regard.
Many areas of Kerry have good histories in terms of enterprise development, but Farranfore and mid-Kerry do not. Developing the facility in question would be timely. If funding is secured from Enterprise Ireland, it will ensure the development of employment opportunities in that strategic location.
The department of regional and urban planning at University College, Dublin, produced a comprehensive study on the period 2002 to 2022. Consultants developed and recommended the concept of an economic and development triangle between Tralee, Killarney and Castleisland centred on Farranfore and mid-Kerry. Quoting the economic spatial development perspective, the study claims that such a development centred on the Farranfore transportation hub would facilitate a more balanced system of urban-rural relationships utilising links between international, national, regional and local transport networks while promoting the role of gateway and hub towns. The study's summary recommendations outlined the objective of developing Farranfore as an industrial hub for the region by capitalising on road, air, rail and telecommunications infrastructure. The study recommended that the location and consequent advantages should be marketed as providing distinct advantages for businesses and industry. Current enterprise space in Tralee and Killarney is at full occupancy. While there is an adequate supply of large industrial units, especially in Tralee, there is a gap in facilities provision for companies seeking flexible space and the option of light industrial and, or, distribution centres.
I was a member of the Kerry County Enterprise Board for five years from 1999 to 2004 while a member of Kerry County Council. I am aware therefore of an obvious latent demand for space in the mid-Kerry area generally. Given the number of inquiries to existing centres and the continued growth in requests for support from the enterprise board and other development agencies, there is a clear need to ensure the enterprise centre initiative receives as much support as possible at this stage.
If and when new businesses locate in a facility, they will be given ongoing, positive support to help them grow and develop. Already, a number of new and growing enterprises have expressed great interest in Farranfore as a location. A great opportunity exists for all involved to demonstrate support for employment in the regions from Government and State agencies down to local level. I urge the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, to ensure in the interests of balanced regional development that the application for a community enterprise centre at Farranfore, County Kerry, is given due priority and consideration.