Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Minister Batt O’Keeffe would appear to be more in tune with concerned business voices across Waterford than his predecessor Mary Coughlan.
Having met with local business representatives twice in the past eight weeks, and having committed to return to Waterford in September, he already appears a more willing listener than the Tánaiste.
Speaking to The Munster Express, Waterford Chamber Chief Executive Michael Garland said Minister O’Keeffe’s willingness to engage with local stakeholders was a cause for optimism.
“Having this much access can only be good from a Waterford business point of view,” he said, as one of 25 local representatives who recently sat down with the Minister.
“All who spoke at the meeting made one thing abundantly clear to him: Waterford and the south east requires greater attention from the Government when it comes to job creation and greater promotion with regard to potential foreign and direct investment.”
Local representatives from the IFA, the Small Firms Association, the Irish Hotels Federation and Chamber members from Clonmel, New Ross and Wexford also attended the meeting.
Michael Pender of the Enterprise Department’s Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) unit formed part of the Ministerial delegation, and he too appeared sympathetic given Waterford’s barren investment spell.
With this in mind, Mr Garland is confident that economic progress in Waterford through Government assistance looks likelier now than it has for a number of years.
“It struck me, and I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this, that the Minister was genuinely listening to what we were telling him,” he said.
“That we’ve met with him twice in two months and that he’s coming to address the Chamber conference in September has got to count for something.”
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