Today is day four of Emma McNamara's tour around the country, looking at jobs and job creation in different sectors of the economy. Emma has looked at call centre jobs in Waterford, the tech sector in Dundalk and the pharma sector in Sligo. Today she is in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.
The town has seen ups and downs in recent years. The credit card company MBNA pulling out in 2011 was a big shock for the area, and some would say that it is only just beginning to recover now. But there was some good news for the town in recent weeks, with the news that medical products firm VistaMed is to create 125 jobs here and in nearby Roosky. The news has certainly created a buzz, with many in the town mentioning that it had been good for morale, and good sentiment is always good for business. VistaMed provides catheter and extrusions to the global medical device industry.
Carrick native Christine Lynch, who already worked at VistaMed, has secured one of the newly created engineering jobs. Ms Lynch says she found it difficult to find a job in engineering when she left college, but decided to take a job in the company for which she was over qualified so as to "get a foot in the door". Within a few months, an engineering job in the company came up - Christine went for it and got it. She says she never actually thought she would get a job in the town she grew up in, adding that there are not many big companies like VistaMed in towns like Carrick-on-Shannon.
Declan Whyte has been at VistaMed for six years, and watched its growth from a small firm to an employer of around 250 in Carrick-on-Shannon. He says the company had undergone a lot of changes, including a change of attitude from an SME to that of a bigger company. He also says the work at the plant has grown more complicated and specialist with all of their products now at the top end of the market.
Jonnie Goodwin, the business development manager at VistaMed, says the company was established in 1999 and the latest job creation move is part of an investment supported by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, as well as from the company's partner Helix Medical. He says the company relies on local businesses for some of its requirements and says its success has a positive knock-on effect on local companies. While not a native of Leitrim, Mr Goodwin says it is a great place to live, with a great standard of living. He says it it not experiencing a housing price bubble, so homes are still very affordable, while it is only two hours from Dublin and about 40 minutes from Sligo. Knock airport is also very accessible.
Frank Curran, chief executive of Leitrim County Council, says that Carrick-on-Shannon faces challenges in bringing industry to the town as large firms tend to be attracted to large urban areas. But he says the town is very accessible to Dublin and Sligo while Knock airport is also handy. Mr Curran also points out that about 300,000 people live around the area, which offers a great standard of living. Stating that it is important to market Leitrim as a centre for outdoor activity, Mr Curran lists activities including cruising on the river Shannon, angling, walking and cycling among its highlights. The county is currently developing a meaningful action plan to create sustainable jobs in Leitrim. He says the plan is being "created by Leitrim people for Leitrim people".