“What we are doing is making a Mayo that is sustainable, inclusive, prosperous and proud,” explains Peter Hynes, Mayo County Council Chief executive. The vision for the county can be encapsulated in those words:
• sustainable – in the sense of being able to continue what the council does;
• inclusive – highlighting all of the strengths of the people;
• prosperous – looking after the needs of the community; and
• proud – a core value for the communities which the council represents.
To help it successfully achieve its goals, the county council set up an enterprise and investment unit just over two years ago, led by Head of Enterprise Joanne Quinn, who has strong form having come to the role from the county enterprise board.
The council has developed a renewable energy strategy and is currently in the process of developing an investment strategy and a tourism strategy, both led from the enterprise and investment unit.
The key to attracting investment and generating employment, the council has identified, is collaboration. It is working with the health, education and training, culture and the arts, sports and tourism sectors as well as many other bodies in other sectors.
Hynes explains: “We’re aiming to support our local indigenous industries and to retain the major FDI investors to help them expand and leverage the expertise they have. We also want to create a very supportive and pro-enterprise environment in the county and that involves collaboration all the way from the one-person operation right the way through to the thousand-plus employers of whom we are lucky enough to have four. In terms of enterprise, there’s over 3,000 businesses based in the county, some of which are multi-nationals.”
The largest Coca-Cola plant in Ireland is in Mayo. In addition, the county’s businesspeople export to three continents. Locally, nationally and globally, Mayo has a lot of success stories.
For example, not everyone will be familiar with Allergan but everyone will have heard of botox. Every single element of botox is produced in Allergan’s factory in Westport into which the company has just invested €350 million, doubling the size of the plant.
Hynes believes that the future will be about connectivity, communication and collaboration. For connectivity, the council is working on the Atlantic Fibre Optic Cable, which will connect from New York to North Mayo and then on to London. Mayo also has strategies to promote renewable energy, including wind energy and biomass.
Another key area which Mayo is continuing to leverage is the power of its diaspora. The first ever Mayo Global Day will take place on 2 May, broadcasting some spectacular celebrations across the globe and linking Mayo people from many locations on one day.
Tourism in particular is a key sector which Mayo is keen to tap into. Hynes comments: “On the tourism side of things, we’ve been working to develop Mayo as an outdoor pursuits/soft adventure destination. Due to our positioning and what we can offer, it fits naturally into that space.”
The Greenway has been a great success. Whilst The Gathering illustrated the power of community involvement in tourism, this project has done it in a very different way as it is very much owned by the people and the communities.
“It was the first time we had over 140 landowners voluntarily sign land away and this helped to create the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland,” Hynes says. “Without that kind of community buy-in, the project couldn’t have happened and it has become one of the success stories of Mayo and the west of Ireland in the last few years.”
The council is now seeking to apply the same thorough process to the Wild Atlantic Way by developing two key discovery points along the route and it is hoping to do at least one more. Mayo is positioning itself as the heartbeat and one of the key access points from where tourists can go north to Donegal or south to Cork or Kerry.
As the council works to develop and market the region as a key tourism destination, access still remains a difficulty. “Access to the West region, not just Mayo, is hugely important,” comments Hynes. “So if we’re going to have a balanced regional development, in our view, access to Knock Airport is key as it is pointing to the West and North West. We’re currently working with other local authorities in the region to develop and grow that.”
Road access is also still critically important, in particular along the Atlantic corridor. The Gort to Tuam element of that route is about to go onsite and that will be a big step forward. The last link in this project is the route from Charlestown to Sligo and once that’s completed it will give a very modern and effective access corridor to the west coast. Mayo County Council is making the case to give it priority once the N5 project (Longford town to Westport) has moved to the construction phase.
The future looks promising for the county as the council tries to develop and promote a Mayo which is made up of many parts. The main call to action on its new website (www.mayococo.ie) is to visit, connect and invest. Hynes concludes: “We’re ready to do business and look forward to doing business with anyone from any part of the world.”
Mayo’s strategic goals
1. Deliver efficient high quality local services with a system of continuous improvement
2. Support employment, encourage enterprise and maximise investment
3. Collaborate with others to advance the development of the county
4. Engage with communities at home and by reaching out to the global diaspora