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10th May 1999
Minutes of the Economic Development Committee Meeting held on Monday 10th May 1999 at 7.30pm in the Committee Room, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane.
Present: In the Chair - Cllr. T. McBride Other Members - Cllrs. Mrs A. Bell, I. Barr, Donnell, J. Emery, T. Kerrigan C. McHugh, E. McMenamin, I. Murtagh, E. Turner MBE Total = 10
In Attendance - Clerk & Chief Executive
Economic Development Officer
Apologies - Cllr. Hussey
Minutes of Meeting
It was noted that the Minutes of the Economic Development Committee Meeting of 19th April 1999 had not yet been adopted by Council.
Page 1 - New Deal
Councillor Barr informed the members that the New Deal Consortium have agreed the Council’s proposal and he has signed the letter of acceptance.
Page 2 - Into the West
Councillor Turner, circulated to those present a report on the trade mission he attended in North America in March. He outlined that the delegation met representatives of more that 50 North American companies, as well as civic and business leaders. LEDU believes that the Mission could bring up to £5 million in sales to Tyrone and Fermanagh next year.
Councillor Turner, praised both Mr Manus O’Doherty who worked very hard in trying to secure business and LEDU who had been very helpful in setting up contacts on the trip. He further advised the members that it is anticipated that approximately 100 jobs will be created over the 5 Council areas.
In conclusion Councillor Turner, said that he found the Trade Mission a very useful exercise and thanked Council for the opportunity to take part in the trip.
Councillor McBride thanked Councillor Turner for an informative report which proved very useful.
Page 2 - Recite II - Netwin Project
Councillor McBride informed members that he is unable to attend the meeting of the Steering Group for the above Project to be held on Friday 14th May 1999 in Derry City Council, due to other commitments. It was agreed that Councillor Kerrigan attend on his behalf.
Page 4 - Low Pay Unit
In response to Councillor Murtagh’s query regarding representation from the above, the EDO informed members that she had communicated with the Unit and had been contacted by Mr Jim McCracken from the LPU on Friday past to clarify that he could attend tonight’s meeting, but due to the short notice she felt members were deprived of time to prepare for his presentation so declined the offer to a future date. It was unanimously agreed that Mr McCracken be invited to the next meeting.
Page 5 - Conferences
Chamber of Commerce & Industry - First Enterprise Summit on Europe’s New Economy - 7th May 1999
Councillor McBride referred to the above conference which Councillor Kerrigan and himself attended in the Waterfront Hall and the Hilton Hotel in Belfast.
Councillor McBride informed the members that the conference consisted of a gathering of people from all over the world. He said that the conference considered the way forward and advised how businesses can operate differently. It was anticipated that there would be much more collaboration among the stake holders and the traditional business view of short term profit may no longer be the way forward.
Councillor Kerrigan concurred with Councillor McBride and agreed that it was a high profile conference which was a boost to the Waterfront and Hilton Hotel and prestigious event for NI.
In response to Councillor McMenamin’s query regarding education, Councillor McBride informed the members that education is regarded as one of the main aspects of moving forward.
Page 6 - Manchester twinning with Strabane
In response to Councillor McMenamin’s query regarding the above, the EDO apologised for failing to follow up the request and assured the members that she would report back at the next meeting.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICER’S REPORT
North West Institute for Further & Higher Education
NWIFHE & Strabane District Council Liaision Committee
The EDO informed the members that a meeting of the Liaison Committee was held on Wednesday 5th May 1999. Ms Alice Higgins advised that the College had invited the Council Chairman to launch their Community Education Forum on the 20th May. They are also setting up a Forum for Farmers to ascertain and deliver their training needs. They are liasing with the Strabane Support Team of Business in the Community to carry out Training Needs Analysis for Strabane Companies and identify gaps in training provision.
In conclusion the EDO explained to the members that it is anticipated that the level of quality of programmes will be expanded to the Youth of the District and women returnees.
Councillor McBride in addition to the EDO’s comments, informed the members that week including the 20th May has been set aside as Adult Learners Week and will concentrate on meeting their requirements. He further added that education should be given additional resources so tap into underachievement. The Liaison Committee have a major role to play in developing education and training for Strabane District.
Recite II Netwin Project
Members noted this item had been discussed earlier in the meeting.
Integrated Economic Development Strategy Planning 2000-2005
The EDO reminded members that the next special meeting of LEAP will be held on the 12th May. She referred to an itinerary of the meeting which was previously circulated to the members. The EDO informed the members that Venture International will be facilitating the meeting. It was agreed at a previous meeting that all members of the Economic Development Committee would be invited to attend the Strategy Workshop as it plays a crucial role in developing the Economic Development Strategy. The EDO agreed to contact and advise all absent members of the LEAP invitation.
Burn Walk - Drumrallagh
Councillor Turner raised his concern at an invitation he had received from the Woodland Trust to the launch of the Burn Walk, Drumrallagh.
Councillor Barr voiced concern that he had only discovered on Friday last that only himself and the Access Officer had been invited to attend the launch. He considered that in the circumstances he would have expected the town Councillors, the Chief Executive and the Chief Technical Services Officer to have been invited.
The Chief Executive informed the members that he contacted the Woodland Trust on Friday regarding the manner in which the event was organised.. He expressed concern at the lack of acknowledgement which was given to Council, in light of the generous financial support and the assistance given by the CTO and the Countryside Access Officer. The Woodland Trust were most apologetic for their mistakes made and assured him that a similar situation would not arise again.
Following discussion it was agreed that this item be raised at the Full Council meeting to be held the next night for further discussion.
The EDO informed the members that a meeting was convened with a representative of Strabane Enterprise Agency, Castlederg Enterprise Agency, Strabane District Partnership and herself to discuss the partnering of the 2 Agencies on the above project. They jointly agreed to contract with TEDI to assist in the delivery of the project. LEDU has also agreed, in principle, to co-fund the project with the Council and the District Partnership. She further informed the members that a brief has been prepared and LEDU intends to add to it.
In response to Councillor Emery’s query, regarding the Project, the EDO explained to the members that the aim of the project is to identify products used by local firms and businesses that are being imported into the District and ascertain whether these products can be produced by local companies.
LED Training/Capacity Building Project
The EDO updated members regarding the above. She informed the members that 10 out of 20 cheques have been received from the various Councils, and when all payments are complete the contract will then be signed by the Chief Executive.
The EDO said that she had forwarded a circular to the Community Groups within the District advising them of the Project and the opportunity for them to become involved.. The EDO also advised members of the numerous elements within the project which may be of interest to them such as the Foundation Course in Economic Development and asked members who were interested to put forward their name for inclusion
West Tyrone Rural 2000
The EDO circulated a copy of the ‘Herald’ Newspaper to the members and explained that she has been approached by WTR 2000 to seek permission from Council to advertise their activities in the proposed Leader Newspaper and Advertiser. The proposed advertisement will provide the opportunity for comments to be fully identified and connected with the Leader Programme. The EDO further added that it has been proposed that Strabane and Omagh Councils share the cost of advertisements at £300 leaving a total of £150 for Strabane Council to pay. In conclusion the EDO advised that it would be beneficial for Strabane to become associated with advertising, as it was important for Council to demonstrate its ownership of the Leader Project.
In response to Councillor Donnell’s query regarding the distribution of the paper, the EDO clarified that a networking system operates throughout Europe as regards to distribution throughout the District, she agreed to investigate.
Councillor Turner said that it was an important time coming up to the year 2000 and this was an opportunity to highlight Rural 2000. He further added that £1 million was divided between the 2 Councils equally and the business was complete with small rural businesses and communities as the beneficaries.
The EDO advised the members that the next round of funding from LEADER may not be allocated to single Councils which will mean that as one of the few councils who went into partnership we may be funded.
Councillor Murtagh praised the Leader Board and said that it has attracted a lot of money to the area.
Discussion ensued after which Councillor McMenamin proposed, seconded by Councillor Murtagh that Council support the advertisement. This was agreed.
SDP/LEDU/Councils Collaboration Project
The EDO referred to the above Collaboration Project between Strabane, Omagh, Dungannon and Fermanagh and to the outline programme which was previously circulated to the members. She further informed the members that LEDU have submitted Phase I to the IRTU for indicative funding assessment to investigate technology needs within the District. The EDO further explained to the members that Council have not committed in any format to the programme, however based on discussions with LEDU it has been ascertained that participation from herself will be sufficient to secure the project.
The Chief Executive added that he was content with commitment on this basis as no provision had been made within the estimates for the project.
In response to Councillor McBride’s query regarding Phase 2, the EDO clarified that there has been no submission of detail to date.
Discussion ensued following which Councillor Barr proposed, seconded by Councillor Bell that the EDO participate in the Project. This was agreed.
The EDO referred to the above summary report produced by the Economic Strategy Review Steering Group which was previously circulated to the members. The EDO informed the members that the Chairman and Vice Chairman and herself attended a recent conference of the Economic Development Committee. Dr Paul Gorecki Director of the NI Economic Council reviewed the document and she referred to a copy of his paper which was previously circulated to the members. The EDO further added that at the same conference Michael Smyth of the University of Ulster gave a presentation on, ‘Lessons Learned and a Future Route Map’. He highlighted in his presentation the ‘Need to support local government as the hub of the local development wheel’.
The EDO advised the members that the document is open for discussion and will inform the development of the Council’s Economic Strategy.
Councillor McBride updated the members on the conference which he attended and said that the discussions on the Strategy 2010 proved informative. The document is ambitious and targets set are optimistic and could be de-motivating when not achieved. Mr Mike Smyth a lecturer in Queen’s University at Jordanstown had a strong message which would effect IDB and LEDU. Councillor McBride continued to inform the members that the discussion included development of large sites within Belfast and highlighted the need for a proper mix of public and private input with the public being the pump primer. A representative from IDA the equivalent of IDB said that in the past the company were under a lot of pressure in terms of inward investment which concentrated on people rather than Technology. They refused to be diverted from High Tech and this strategy has now proven itself. He indicated that there was a growing school of thought, that Councils need to take the role as a key player.
The EDO added that a representative from ‘Making Belfast Work Initiative’, spoke of deprivation in Belfast, and how they tackled this. The initiative concentrated on developing the Environment, and attracting Inward Investment they then discovered that they also needed to look at Training individuals for these jobs. They then looked at improving schools and housing.
Councillor Murtagh referred to the Targets and said that he found the GDP per head as a % of UK was currently 80% as compared to average weekly earnings of UK which was 86% and considered that this was hard to credit.
In response to Councillor Murtagh’s comments, Councillor McBride said that the average weekly earnings includes payments as well as earnings. As a result the earnings have to advance quicker in NI than that of the rest of the UK. They are hoping the growth of tourism will impact on Economic Growth.
Councillor Kerrigan reiterated comments made by Councillor McBride and added that discussion highlighted the state of the Rural areas at present. He was dismayed at the figures which proved the decline of agriculture. Councillor Kerrigan also informed the members that they mentioned the Millennium Projects and referred to the restoration of the Old Mills which may still exist in rural areas. He said that this may be a positive step forward and he has always maintained that Council will not create 1000 jobs in Strabane overnight but can continue to boost employment in the rural areas.
Councillor McMenamin said that by 2010 we will be in serious need of labour and the intention is to increase the availability of female workers by the Millennium
Councillor McBride commented that NI has a successful education system but also has a high level of illiteracy and unskilled workers which is higher than that of the UK. Only a percentage of the workforce are educated. The Department is prepared to provide funding towards training needs and setting rigorous targets to set a standard. Education is going to be the centre of Development.
The EDO referred to recent correspondence from MARI which was circulated to the members regarding adverse publicity which they claim to counteract. She informed the members that she sought a report from MARI which was received earlier in the day. The Report supports the evidence that 271 people have been trained at MARI INFOTRAIN consisting of 155 Adults and 116 youths which have been divided between Job Skills, New Deal and the Summer Club. The Internet Centre have had a throughput of approximately 2500 people excluding the 57 Information Society Advice sessions between June 1997 and June 1998.
The Chief Executive advised the members that it may be of some value to contact the Department of Economic Development to request a briefing on MARI as Council is currently withholding a payment and we need to determine facts.
Councillor Turner pointed out that Mari’s performance had been queried before and they had not delivered what was promised to the Council. They had agreed that once Strabane was set up they would then move to Castlederg and to Newtownstewart.
Councillor Barr agreed with the points made by Councillor Turner and suggested that Council contact the Department of Economic Development to seek the current status so that queries from the Auditor can be answered.
Councillor McBride said that he would be concerned with the lack of IT Training and would agree that Council need to be seen investigating the problem so to avoid being caught unawares.
Councillor Murtagh said there was a proven demand for IT training and MARI have fallen short of Council’s expectations.
Discussion ensued after which it was unanimously agreed that the Department of Economic Development be contacted regarding the speculation on MARI and that Council clarify the present situation.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICER’S UPDATE
The EDO informed the members that she had been involved in negotiations with a company within the District who are rumoured to be closing down with the effect of 15-20 jobs lost. Through negotiating with the Principal of the Company, 3 interested parties have become involved, so it is expected that jobs will be saved.
In response to Councillor Barr the EDO said that she was optimistic that the company will be sold and will operate under new ownership when the present owner retires.
Young Enterprise Conference
The EDO referred to the above conference to be held on Wednesday 19th May 1999 in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast and informed the members that they had been issued with free tickets.
Following discussion Councillor McBride proposed, seconded by Councillor Murtagh that Councillor Mrs Bell attend. This was agreed.
Councillor Barr proposed, seconded by Councillor McBride that there be an all party representation. This was agreed.
The Chief Executive agreed to investigate if there was any local involvement and if so an Officer could attend.
The meeting concluded at 9.20pm