The idea of Waterford being brought closer to Dublin due to the provision of the new motorway is not the way that business leaders on Suirside are viewing it.
“It’s not about push – it’s about pulling people towards Waterford,” said Waterford Chamber President Andrew O’Neill. “The motorway is bringing the capital closer to us, not the other way round.”
Chamber Chief Executive Monica Leech was singing from the same hymn sheet. “There’s a lot of exciting things happening in Waterford and this is a wonderful time for Waterford to talk itself up,” she said.
“I was on a radio programme reviewing the Sunday papers recently and I mentioned the idea of profiling Waterford as the ‘city by the sea’, which I was then asked to explain,” she said.
“By way of a response, I offered the idea that at 5.20 you’re surfing at work and by 6.20, you could be surfing on the coast given our location. Waterford as a city is uniquely disposed in that respect and it’s incumbent upon us to build and develop that profile.”
She added: “The challenge facing Chamber and the city as a whole is how best to answer the question ‘what is Waterford’? What is its personality and how do we sell that profile across the country and beyond for that matter?”
Monica Leech said that there’s indisputable evidence that natives who’ve been educated and gained work outside of Waterford are keen to return to employment here.
“I was talking to one guy who wanted to find work at home and it took him six years to get a job here,” she continued. “And there are several more incidences of that which have come to our attention.
“We’ve had a huge haemorrhaging of talent from the region for so many years and I’ve been really struck by the numbers of Waterford people who want to come back and work locally.
“And when you see how high-skilled industries like Genzyme and IVAX have expanded and developed here and provided people from Waterford with a chance to return to work and raise a family here – well, that’s been great to see.”
Attracting more of those industries is the nut that local business leaders and politicians alike will be keen to crack as the city’s manufacturing sector continues to diminish.