A gropu of locals in a south Laois town badly hit by the recession, is working hard to revive business and community life.
Among several ambitious projects that Mountrath Community Forum has set itself, is to convert the old Telfords Garage in the town centre, into an Enterprise Hub for new start-up businesses.
The large painted grey garage building has a prominent position in the town centre, so its renovation would have a second bonus, of boosting the visual impact of Mountrath.
The forum has already signed a lease on the premises.
Cllr James Kelly, a member of the forum, estimates that the big job of restoring it, including electrical work, would cost in the region of €200,000.
“We have applied for Leader funding, and we plan to apply for support from Enterprise Ireland as well,” he said.
Restaureur Eddie Phelan is also on the forum, and is hopeful that the hub could be up and running as soon as this year.
“We hope to have it up and running in the next few months, bringing much needed regeneration to the town centre,” he said.
They have identified some local entrepreneurs interested in renting space in the centre.
“We already have a graphic design company and a fitness group ready to set up there,” he said.
“ It will have five or six units. The forum will offering business mentoring to anyone that needs a little help, and there will be shared secretarial services on site . All small businesses can apply,” Mr Phelan explained.
The forum has already won an award for its enterprise plans.
Last November, members gave a presentation to the judges at the National Enterprise Town Awards 2016.
Before judging, in liaison with owners, they had painted up several vacant buildings in Mountrath.
“In our presentation we focused on the future of the town in terms of enterprise and opportunity,” said chairman Martin Meade.
The forum were given a Merit Award, winning €1,500, which they gave to Mountrath Mens Shed to fund their activities and buy materials.