A new workplace initiative in west Waterford will breathe new life into the area while providing jobs into a number of local towns and villages, backers say.
Construction is due to start next week on the West Waterford Smart Workplace Locations scheme, which will see new office developments in Lismore, Cappoquin, Villierstown, and Tallow.
The €3 million plan is backed by the Irish Local Development Network, through the Waterford Leader Partnership, along with Waterford City and County Council and the philanthropic Tomar Trust, forming the Blackwater Valley Economic Development Zone.
According to CEO of the Waterford Leader Partnership, Jimmy Taaffe, 40 construction jobs will be created for the duration of the building project over the next year, with more than 90 full-time jobs expected in the 80 new office spaces when complete.
"The project has the capacity to attract an estimated 80 new residents to the Blackwater Valley," he said.
One of the sites being developed is at the community-run Lismore Business Park.
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Secretary of the business park, Deirdre Meany, said one of the aims of the project is to stop the "drain" of talent away from the local areas towards the bigger towns and cities within and outside the region, as well as attracting new businesses into the region.
"Smart working means combining the use of technology and connectivity to give people flexible working options," she explained.
"We have identified that many people are highly skilled and travel to Cork and Waterford.
"If anything, 2020 has amply demonstrated to us that many of those key workers can effectively and productively work closer to their home environments - they do not need to go into centralised office environments.
"However, equally so, working from their kitchen table is not an option.
"The hope is that these smart working developments and offices within the four villages can create these highly-connected zones where people can work in an attractive environment for both employer and employee, closer to home."
This means a better quality of life for all involved, while retaining existing workers in the area, she said.
Another site being developed is the former Blackwater House in Cappoquin, which is one of a number of buildings taken over by the local development group with the aim of regenerating the town.
Secretary of the Cappoquin Regeneration Company, Denis McCarthy, said the project is "unique" in that it involves four communities coming together to co-operate to promote, market and develop the west Waterford area.
"The Blackwater House development will be a development of a smart office hub, remote working, to the highest standards, energy-efficient and carbon-neutral as much as possible," he said.
There will also be an opportunity for offices to expand into neighbouring buildings owned by the regeneration company, according to Mr McCarthy.
"Earlier this year Waterford City and County Council were awarded €1.6 million two regenerate Cappoquin. If you look around the square in Cappoquin you'll see a number of derelict buildings and it’s proposed to purchase these buildings and renovate them over time."
He described the scheme as "very exciting" for the four areas involved and west Waterford in general.
According to the Irish Local Development Network, the "clustering" of the four facilities provides client companies with up to 6,000 potential employees, rather than a few hundred, while all four locations are community-owned.