Revitalizing Rural Communities in Celtic Regions with Allan Mulrooney, CEO of the Western Development Commission
Allan Mulrooney, CEO of the Western Development Commission Ireland
The Interceltic Business Forum will bring together business leaders from several Celtic nations to share their knowledge and build future collaborations.
Allan Mulrooney, CEO of the Western Development Commission, will be present in Lorient and will speak at the conference on "Revitalizing Rural Communities in Celtic Regions: The Future of Work".
We were able to talk with Allan a few days before the conference to better understand why he is participating this year.
What is the Western Development Commission?
The Western Development Commission (WDC) is a state body focused on bolstering economic growth and enhancing the quality of life in the West of Ireland. At the heart of our initiatives lies the Western Investment Fund, a pioneering fund established two decades ago to invest public money into local businesses. The fund's track record boasts a remarkable return, nearly tripling its original value and injecting a substantial €3.3 billion boost into Ireland's economy. Currently valued at €90 million, the fund has been self-financing since 2010 and invests in scaling companies across all sectors in the region.
Beyond financial support, the WDC's commitment to shaping a prosperous future for the region is evident in our multifaceted approach. Our Policy Analysis team examines long-term trends, challenges, and potential solutions affecting the Western Region's quality of life. Armed with data from various sources, they effectively advocate for the region's interests on a national scale, ensuring its voice resonates in key discussions. In recent months these include the Electrical Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Strategy, the Government’s Enterprise White Paper, the All-Island Strategic Rail Review, and submissions to the Shannon Estuary Economic Task Force.
Another vital aspect of our mission is our global promotion of the West of Ireland. We create compelling content that showcases the region as a desirable destination for living, working, and pursuing rewarding careers. We target those looking to move home, those looking for a challenging career, and those looking to find balance.
The WDC's dedication to regional development is evident through projects like ConnectedHubs.ie, which fosters a network of digital hubs, co-working spaces, and incubators. What began as a successful trial in the West has evolved into a nationally significant project, with potential for replication in other Celtic countries. This project embodies the organization's forward-thinking approach and commitment to fostering innovation and one we will focus on at the event.
Furthermore, the WDC's work extends beyond Ireland's borders, engaging with various EU partners. Through strategic partnerships, we explore cutting-edge ideas, support niche development areas, and cultivate valuable relationships with stakeholders across the EU. The organization's focus on projects like Literary Tourism, digital mentoring, and the Blue Circular Economy is designed to bring knowledge, funding, and collaboration that can elevate the West of Ireland's standing on the international stage.
In essence, the Western Development Commission strategically invests in local businesses, advocates for regional interests, promotes the West of Ireland globally, fosters innovation, and builds partnerships that create competitive advantages.
What connections are you trying to building by speaking and attending?
Our team's participation in the Interceltic Business Forum aims to establish meaningful connections on multiple fronts. The primary focus is on nurturing strong ties with businesses and stakeholders from Celtic countries, facilitating knowledge exchange, collaboration, and potential joint ventures.
Additionally, we want to engage with international investors and industry leaders attending the forum. Building connections with these key players can attract investment and generate interest in the West of Ireland's business landscape, creating new opportunities for economic growth.
From our attendance at last year’s event we know the event also serves as an excellent platform to connect with representatives from EU institutions. These connections are vital for accessing EU funding and support for various projects, in line with our strategic goal of bringing knowledge, funding, and partnerships that positively impact the region.
As part of our delegation, representatives from our Connected Hubs project will be present. They include Joan Mulvihill, Digitalisation & Sustainability Lead at Siemens and the Irish Contemporary Arts Society; Lyn Donnelly, representing hub managers across Ireland; and Gerard Corcoran, representing Smart Cities & Communities. For anybody planning to be at the event, be sure to meet our team and those travelling with us.
Rural areas across many Celtic nations have seen much revitalize with the normalization of remote work. What predictions do you see in these areas with the continued adoption of new ways of working?
With the increasing adoption of remote work, rural regions are witnessing a surge in talent migration. Skilled professionals are drawn to the allure of a better work-life balance, lower living costs, and a life closer to the outdoors, prompting a migration away from urban centers across all Celtic countries.
Economically, the embrace of remote work is fostering diversification in rural areas. Traditional sectors are no longer the sole focus, as remote work allows residents to participate in a broader range of industries, leading to a more resilient local economy.
This shift is not only rejuvenating communities but also highlighting the need for improved digital infrastructure. Policymakers and private entities are recognizing the importance of investing in high-speed internet and connectivity to support remote workers and promote further economic growth. In Ireland, our Connected Hubs project is playing a key part in this while our Government continues to roll out our National Broadband Plan.
The impact of remote work goes beyond financial gains; it is triggering a renaissance in rural living with professionals now giving back to their communities often taking the time once spent commuting to coach a local underage football club or join a tidy towns initiative.
Additionally, remote work aligns with sustainability efforts, reducing commuting and office space requirements. This approach aligns with the global drive for environmentally-friendly practices and it’s one we are focused on through our Connected Hubs initiative.
With the influx of newcomers to Celtic regions, house prices have surged as demand outpaces supply. This surge in housing costs poses a significant challenge, threatening to hinder the opportunities that remote work and inward migration now offer. The Western Development Commission is acutely aware of the critical issue and is committed to capitalizing on the potential of this transformation.
As more professionals relocate to rural areas in search of a better work-life balance, there is an increasing expectation for improved infrastructure, amenities, and facilities akin to those found in major cities worldwide. I believe the days of accepting substandard road, rail, and air infrastructure in rural regions are over. Policymakers and governments in Celtic nations must prioritize balanced regional development, with a particular focus on underperforming or lagging areas.
In the current post-COVID world, many companies are grappling with the best ways to work efficiently while maintaining a positive corporate culture. Some are requesting their staff to return to the office for at least part of the week. As advocates for regional development, it is imperative to empower workers to continue remote work. This includes educating employers and collaboratively seeking solutions to address potential challenges, ensuring that the migration trend witnessed in recent years persists, even as infrastructure and housing needs catch up.
The WDC recognizes the critical juncture at which Celtic regions find themselves. The opportunity to revitalize rural areas through remote work and inward migration is at stake, necessitating a concerted effort to overcome infrastructure constraints and meet the evolving needs of a dynamic workforce. By capitalizing on this transformative moment, Celtic countries can drive balanced regional development, cultivate thriving communities, and harness the full potential of remote work to propel their economies and societies forward.
What is the Interceltic Business Forum?
The Interceltic Business Forum is back for its third edition, the major event of the Celtic economic world!
Friday, August 4, 2023, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Chamber of Commerce and Industry - 21 Quai des Indes, Lorient
The INTERCELTIC BUSINESS FORUM 2023 will take place on August 4th in Lorient at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This event will bring together speakers from different Celtic countries to share their experiences and successes in economic development, strengthening links between Celtic nations, internationalization of businesses, mobilizing the Celtic diaspora to support innovation and entrepreneurship, transitioning to a green economy, revitalizing rural communities in Celtic regions, as well as the sailing industry.
is an organization established to create, facilitate, promote, and sponsor wide-ranging innovative and collaborative cultural and economic projects that strengthen and foster relations and cooperation between the United States of America and the region of Brittany, France.