I launched the new Midlands Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 on the 6th February last in Mountmellick, Co. Laois. The Plan is one of 9 Plans that have emerged from a 'bottom-up' process to refresh and refocus the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (RAPJ) 2015-2017, and the new Plans remain focused on delivering on the employment targets set to 2020 under the original RAPJs.
The Midland Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 has identified seven strategic Objectives to build on the strengths of the region.
The first of these Objectives aims to ‘Ensure that the Midlands is well positioned to address the challenges posed by the transition to a low carbon economy and renewable energy.’
To deliver on the Objective there are 6 Actions that include support to develop and designate on a pilot basis Portlaoise as a ‘Low Carbon Town’, develop and implement county climate adaptation strategies, consider the feasibility of developing an Energy Park, and to conduct trials in aquaculture and herb production.
In October 2018 Bord na Móna detailed plans to implement Strand 1 of its “Brown to Green” strategy to consolidate and simplify traditional peat harvesting operations, announcing that 21 bogs across the Midland region would cease production in 2019. This “Brown to Green” strategy aligns the company with national and EU decarbonisation policies to accelerate the development of renewable energy assets and accelerate investment in high-value recycling and resource recovery
In response to the Strand 1 announcement, a Regional Transition Team was established by Offaly County Council to:
- Pursue funding opportunities and actions to mitigate the Impact of the Bord na Móna job losses on the individuals concerned and the impact on the local and regional economy, and
- Position the region to develop alternative forms of employment, attract investment and maximise existing employment opportunities and resources.
The Midland Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 supports the work of the Regional Transition Team.
As regards grants and supports to assist in the transition from a carbon intensive region, these are administered by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, through the Climate Action Fund administered by that Department and grants provided by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
Finally, it is important to note that the Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development including my Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund; the Rural and Urban Regeneration and Development Funds under Project Ireland 2040; and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
Under the €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), the Midland region has secured total funding of over €3.4 million to date under the two completed Calls.