The Midwest and Kerry has the potential to develop into a highly competitive region characterised by world class infrastructure. That’s according to Ibec, the group representing Irish business interests.

Ibec has made a submission to the public consultation on the National Planning Framework, calling for an ambitious long-term planning and investment strategy to address the growing imbalance between the regions. The submission was the result of extensive consultation with businesses throughout Clare, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary.

Ibec regional director for the Midwest and Kerry, Mairead Crosby said, “Inter-regional connectivity, by means of motorway between major urban centres, is vital in facilitating this co-ordination of development across wider regions. Connecting cities and their regions will help spread the economic and population growth which is currently concentrated on the east coast.”

Ms Crosby believes that completion of major road projects such as the M20 Limerick–Cork, and the Limerick to Foynes scheme, is crucial to securing the future economic growth of the entire region. “The upgraded regional road network would foster many direct and indirect benefits, including increased commercial and business links, increased talent pool for businesses, more efficient and cost effective movement of people and goods with safer and shorter travel times. The enhancements would also serve to further drive growth in the regions tourism industry, facilitating greater accessibility for the growth of inbound tourism.”

Ibec has stated that the new plan must be underpinned by increased State investment in transport, broadband, water services, health and education infrastructure across all regions. The organisation says this would have the knock on effect of increasing productivity, employment opportunities, and improved standards of living by reducing transport costs, connecting regions to cities, and attracting more private sector investment.

According to the submission the Midwest has a significant opportunity to develop by focusing on sectors such as agri-food and agri-tech, life sciences, ICT, renewable energy and marine, tourism, aviation clustering in Shannon and by developing skills in key areas. The submission describes Shannon Airport as a driver for the region, providing significant economic activity and supporting many jobs directly and many more indirectly across the region. Ibec believes it is vital that continued growth and development at the airport is supported. Ibec also notes that direct air connectivity is a critical requirement for foreign direct investment.

For the region to be a driver of economic growth outside Dublin, it is critical that enhanced, direct air connectivity to key European and North American business markets are available. With regards tourism the submission notes that Clare (5th), Limerick (4th) and Kerry (2nd) are major economic drivers nationally for overseas tourism revenue and says there is significant scope to grow market share. One major challenge identified for the region is the shortage of housing throughout the region. Ibec sees this as a risk to competitiveness and economic growth at a time when companies may be seeking to expand and attract talent to the region.