No cash granted for Portlaoise jobs hub planned for vacant building

Michelle Hogan & Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan & Lynda Kiernan

No cash granted for Portlaoise jobs hub planned for vacant building

A Portlaoise business centre that was budgeted to cost €1.3 million over the next three years has received a major set back as its first grant application was unsuccessful.

The ‘Portlaoise co-working centre’ also called ‘The Cube’ is being developed by Laois County Council to provide a digital innovation working space to support new businesses and create jobs in the county.

The council applied to Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund for cash to provide the physical environment needed for people seeking business supports like networking and mentorship.

It was revealed on Monday that the grant application was not successful, putting a halt to the plans to generate business and create jobs in the town centre.

In Laois County Council's Capital Indicative Programme 2019 - 2021 €1.37 million is allocated to the business centre over three years.

It was planned that ‘The Cube’ would be in a leased glass-fronted office block on Church Street in Portlaoise, beside the former CBS on Tower Hill, however, these plans are now delayed.

The glass building at Church Street near the train station was built in 2012 and has been derelict for a number of years.
Director of Services at Laois County Council, Kieran Kehoe, had outlined the enterprise office's plan for the cube, at the November council meeting.

"This would be a digital hub with 1000 square metres over three floors, with a hot desk area and reception on the ground floor, shared office on the first floor, and an anchor tenant on the third floor. The building is vacant and almost derelict. This forms a central part of our aim to bring in jobs to the town centre. There is no lease signed until we get funding," he said.

This comes as the space for businesses at Portlaoise Enterprise Centre has reached its full capacity.

Denise Rainey is a Business Development Officer in the Business Support Unit at Laois County Council. She described the plan for the jobs hub in more detail.

“Laois County Council has applied for funding to develop 'The Cube', a digital/innovation hub/co-working space which will have a strong focus on strengthening the innovation ecosystem in Laois, facilitating entrepreneurial growth and job creation.

“The Cube will provide the physical environment with required business supports and networking, inclusive of mentorship, incubation, collaboration and business development under one,” she said.

Laois County Council will look at re-submitting their application, based on feedback received from Enterprise Ireland.

While Portlaoise will have to wait for its digital-focused business centre, Mountmellick has secured the cash to plough ahead with its plans for a similar development.

Mountmellick Development Association has successfully secured €218,200 Enterprise Ireland grant funding to set up the Beale Centre for Business Excellence.

The facility will be a boost to local employment, with open plan hot desks, office pods, meeting, teleconferencing rooms and state of the art commercial kitchens.