The Minister is heartily welcome. I thank him for coming in to take this Commencement matter. I am very excited about this application, which will be before him for consideration under the urban regeneration and development fund 2018. If funded and delivered, this project will be transformational not just for the town of Ballina but for north Mayo, east Mayo and south Sligo, which tie into the hinterland of that particular town. There are many challenges in the town and its environs. High unemployment still persists, notwithstanding so much success on the part of the Government nationally. The history of this town is that it was the major shopping or retail town going back generations. It was the place to come. It has lovely streetscapes and is pretty glorious to look at. Obviously the face of retail has changed. Small shops have changed. These are realities we have to contend with and to which we have to try to find solutions. We have to reimagine how depressed town centres can be revitalised. I know from previous conversations that is what the Minister is about. That is why I am delighted that he is here today.
Notwithstanding what I have said, we in Ballina and the surrounding areas have so much more to offer. We have so much more going for us than we have going against us. I see this fund as providing an injection, stimulus, or catalyst that will address so many issues that need addressing, encourage growth, enterprise and innovation, provide renewal in the very centre of the town, and restore it to its former glory. That would be my ambition. We have excellent broadband capacity, which is something that is not said too much in rural Ireland. We have a metropolitan area network and backhaul connectivity. That was installed by Enet at the time. We have connection with a transatlantic high-speed fibre optic cable which comes in just a few kilometres down the road. We are connected into that. We are lit, as they say. We also have a great tradition in respect of multinational companies. We have Coca-Cola and Hollister. We have five multinationals in the environs of Ballina alone. They have been there a long time and they are happy doing business there. Above all, we offer quality of life. We have never had so much investment in sports facilities and arts facilities. We have a whole package. We have houses and school places.
As part of the Minister's ambitions for Project Ireland 2040 and for rebalancing out from the big urban centres and growth in smaller areas of population, we want that €500,000 to grow outside of a big urban centre. Strategic projects such as this are the ones that need funding because they will have a knock-on or domino effect. This particular project is a unique collaboration between a local authority, Mayo County Council, a development company, Moy Valley Resources, and SMAKS Luxury Group. This is an international private investor which produces very high-end rum. It wants to locate here and bring money to the table as part of the local contribution for this. Then there is Blackstone Launchpad in the National University of Ireland, Galway. It is going to provide third level outreach. It is a challenge in some of these rural areas to get third level colleges active and to allow them to bring what they have to offer to the table to allow us to expand and grow. We are talking about a digital hub for 20 start-ups, which would be all kitted out.
We are talking about an innovation and enterprise centre. There is a regeneration fund under the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. What we propose, in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland and the development company and with the approval of the Western Development Commission, would address the underrepresentation of women and migrants in enterprise and intergenerational problems people sometimes experience in accessing employment. The course, including supports, would be run from this centre and it would provide for start-up, seed and scaling of enterprise. It would be delivered in a mentored fashion. The expertise would be provided by the National University of Ireland Galway, NUIG, and I have met those involved who are on board with the project.
The proposed digital hub speaks for itself. This is not a case of providing a digital hub in the hope that people will roll up. Work has been done by surveying and assessing the demand that exists and the supports that have been offered in an ad hoc manner. There will also be a private investor located in the building, providing jobs. Once the building is refurbished, it will be a tourism hub.
Should we secure the funding to refurbish the military barracks, which was built in 1742 and is the centre point around which the town was built, we will regenerate the whole town. The French who landed in Killala to participate in the 1798 rebellion pushed the British from the barracks. The town is a rich tapestry of history and needs modern day revitalisation. There are brilliant stakeholders, whom I have mentioned. The members of the chamber of commerce have a can do and will do attitude. I ask the Minister for his support and to take this on board in his deliberations. It would be a lifeline for the town and the region and it would help deliver on the objectives of Project Ireland 2040.