New Local Innovation Centre Opened At Gortrush

A rallying cry has gone out to foreign and indigenous businesses to seriously consider relocating to Omagh after a new purpose built innovation centre was opened on Friday.

The £1.8m 14,000 sq ft Innovation Growth Centre at Omagh Enterprise Company in the Gortrush Industrial Estate was opened by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster last Friday, offering the potential to create 150 new jobs in the town.

The space will provide high specification accommodation for knowledge based businesses, harnessing the most up to date communications infrastructure and aim at attracting high value companies and support start-up and growth of indigenous businesses.

Some 65 companies and 300 jobs are already based at the centre which helps promote enterprise and support start-up, growth and innovative businesses in the Omagh area. It’s hoped the extra 32 new offices will eventually bring 25 additional firms across the 78,000 sq feet of space.

Boosted by ‘Project Kelvin’, a transatlantic telecommunications connection which provides the centre with high-speed Internet, Arlene Foster described the project as “a catalyst” for the local economy, potentially attracting new companies and providing an ecosystem and a support system for new start-ups.

“Right across the world people are looking at ways to innovate, be enterprising and to build for the future. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a business park in Omagh or north-east Brazil, as long as you have the technology to do the job,” she said. “We should be very proud of what we do here in the west and we should have an aspiration and a vision for what we want to achieve.”

Six years in the planning, the project involved the partnership of Omagh District Council, the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN), the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) and Omagh Enterprise Company.

Some £1.3 million of financial assistance was provided from the EU INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The funding also provides for two innovation officers based in Omagh.

The remaining £500,000 for the project was provided from Omagh Enterprise Company’s own reserves.

The high-tech facility forms an integral part of ICBAN’s Innovation Enterprise Programme, which also involved Leitrim County Enterprise Board, Leitrim County Enterprise Fund and Leitrim County Council.

The Leitrim Technology Enterprise Centre in Carrick-on-Shannon is due to be completed in the next six weeks.

Chief executive of Omagh Enterprise Company, Nick O’Shiel said, “It seems like a lot of partners, but it needed every partner to make this happen over the last number of years.

“The simple message is that as a result of that partnership, we are able to welcome everybody here today to a local enterprise centre that is home to 65 businesses employing 300 people in the area.”

Professor Fabian Monds who chairs the board of directors at Omagh Enterprise Company said the project, “Exemplifies voluntary, private and public co-operation. It is a source of great pride for the board of Omagh Enterprise Company that we have been able to bridge the gap between the public funding and the total cost of the Innovation Growth Centre.

“This is money hard earned over many years and I pay tribute to the chief executive Nick O’Shiel, his staff and the board members present and past for their diligence, prudence and imagination in achieving this excellent outcome,” he said.

Chairman of Omagh District Council, Cllr Errol Thompson, who launched the building phase of the project last year, said it was unique for a council chairman to see both the start and completion of a major project within a single term of office.

“The completion of this landmark building has provided yet another hi-tech flagship project for Omagh and the next step in the programme will be the opening of a similar innovation centre in Carrick-on-Shannon.

“The IEP is another example of the work carried out over the past few years to give a much needed helping hand to our local small businesses
who have suffered enormously through the economic downturn,” he added.

Chief executive of the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) Shane Campbell said, “The new Innovation Growth Centre in Omagh is a great example of how partnership working on a cross-border basis, with Leitrim, can help reinvigorate the Central Border Region, to become
more prosperous and sustainable.

Paul Boylan of the SEUPB added, “The SEUPB is delighted to be able to  support this initiative, which directly addresses the key objectives of the EU’s INTERREG IVA Programme of delivering a more sustainable and prosperous cross-border region.”