By Lynda Kiernan firstname.lastname@example.org@laoisnews.ie
Two rural enterprise schemes for Laois have received €100k in grants between them, to boost jobs in the food and IT business sectors.
Laois County Council won the funding from the REDZ (Rural Economic Development Zones) initiative, for a ‘Fab Lab’ in Portarlington Enterprise Centre, and for a ten month ‘Business of Food’ programme of workshops, mentoring sessions and events to be held around the county.
The projects are designed to help Laois people in the food industry to improve their business.
In Portarlington, a manufacturing unit beside the centre's communal office and reception area, will be converted into a training / hot-desking area, and will also be equipped with a Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory).
“The proposal is to re-orientate the focus of the centre to effectively meet the needs of the emerging digital economy,” deputy CEO Kieran Kehoe said at the December council meeting.
“It is an excellent co-development, with Carlow IT’s games development programme. The next step is 3D printing,” he explained.
The Business of Food program will be open to people thinking of starting a food business, as well as established food businesses who wish to improve the efficiency and profitability of their business.
Last year the small Laois town of Rathdowney was chosen as the pilot of the REDZ scheme, and the €50k grant created half a dozen jobs there.
Further back-up is promised for Rathdowney's fledgling businesses.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly had asked for continued support, at the December council meeting.
“It created five or six jobs, it’s been fantastic, but is there a follow-up for towns who have been successful, to help them move on,” he asked.
Director of Services Kieran Kehoe agreed to follow up on the scheme.
“We may continue networking in the year ahead, for Rathdowney in particular,” he said. He also congratulated the five Laois towns who competed in the Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Competition, praising the winner, Portarlington, and merit award winners Mountrath and Rathdowney.
Nationwide, €5.3 million will be spent on REDZ initiatives, to stimulate economic development in rural towns and their hinterlands.
“This is all about empowering local communities to provide residents with opportunities,” said Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, announcing the scheme.