Thursday, 20th September 2018
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

The future’s bright!"

It seems that the "fallout" from the National Development Plan (NDP) started in earnest last week (poor old Ernest always getting the short straw). All manner of TDs and public representatives eventually managed to find their reading glasses and started to scrutinise the "Terms and Conditions". Low and behold, all was not as it seemed, after Leo spoke to his adoring, assembled press in Sligo.

We here in Waterford, have learned the hard way. Thick, glossy, weighty documents, never seem to translate into positive results for the principal players in said publications. I recall when "Talk Talk" closed its doors out of the blue and rather sharply, in September 2011. We had the usual flurry of activity from local TDs and senior political portfolio Ministers. A publication was hurriedly put together and launched, per Christmas, during the start of Winterval.

Ian Noctor was DJ on WLR’s "Drive-Home" and was beaming a live programme, with the outside broadcast unit, from the ice rink on The Quays. He interviewed me as CEO of the Chamber, about the plan and what it would or would not do for Waterford. I distinctly remember being markedly cautious in welcoming "The Plan". The devil was always going to be in the detail. Having witnessed firsthand, the reluctance of Department Officials to support the recently redundant staff members, I was unwilling to become too enthused. Ian questioned my rational, but I stuck to my guns, stating that I hoped this plan did not become another dusty door stop, in the offices of power in Dublin.

Sure enough, this plan was rather quickly superseded by another publication. The delivery of help and resurrection for Waterford’s economy, soon faded into the annals of history.

Since 2011, I know that we have seen many a journal come and go. Each one promising more and more for Waterford. It’s "Groundhog Day!" There is a glitzy press launch, lots of RTE coverage, loads of newspaper’ headlines, with radio interviews galore. Then "Boom!" reality strikes, a new story and memories fade. Another crisis looms large and yet again a Government Department is busy engaging with the printers.

I have quite literally, run out of fingers, counting the numbers of publications promising to be "THE ONE". The one, which will once and for all, bring salvation to Waterford’s troubles.

It’s not just me thinking this way either. John Deasy has re-emerged from the Wesht, like the creature from "The Black Lagoon", to question the NDP’s content and what it means for Waterford. There are no timelines. Our Middle Eastern International Developer, is waiting in the wings. Do we have the time or the freedom to stall them off for another 6, 9, 12 months? I think not! They will simply move on to the next potential lucrative or speculative opportunity. Time is of the essence for such large conglomerates, as their return on investments, which needs specific deadlines.

I once met the Department of Finance’s main man, in the middle of the banking crisis. At the time when banks were NOT lending to businesses and the availability of any sort of credit, was as rare as hen’s teeth. There was a proposal to put in place a review of bank practices. This would take 9 to 12 months!!!! I asked about the urgency of the situation? Stating that some businesses, in Waterford, were in such financial turmoil with their banks, that they might not be here next week, let alone in 9 or 12 months time. This fell on deaf ears. These Departments, which run our lives, work in months and years, rather than minutes and hours.

So, let us guardedly and cautiously welcome the attention we get from Government publications. We must however ensure we are delivered our fair share of the pie. This is the responsibility of our elected representatives. The very people, who stand for us in the Dail, must ensure that Waterford is at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to financial exchequer help. Unfortunately, our track record on this is also, well let’s just be polite and say not so great.

Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is still too dim?

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