CORK has the potential to become a major economic engine in Ireland by 2040, according to Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell.
However, major infrastructural investment is needed to ensure that Cork realises its potential, he said at their annual Chamber dinner and awards ceremony last night, at which Dairygold were named Cork Company of the Year for 2017.
Cork Chamber named Enable Ireland as their Non-profit of the Year, while also recognising OrthoXel as the Emerging Company of the Year and Irish International Trading Corporation as the SME of the Year for 2017.
Dairygold was also named Large Company of the Year.
Addressing some 1,000 people from across the Cork and national business and political sector, Mr O’Connell called for the delivery of the Cork to Limerick motorway to allow the region to grow as an economic powerhouse.
“The population of Cork is larger than Galway, Limerick and Waterford combined,” he said.
“Cork is the fulcrum to drive all Munster forward. Timely delivery of the M20 Cork-Limerick is an imperative to facilitate effective economic collaboration across Munster.”
In the coming decades, Cork has all the tools necessary to grow on a national and international scale, Mr O’Connell said.
“Cork has a key role to play regionally and nationally with the capacity to outperform over the next 20 years. Already, Cork has the fastest growing population outside Greater Dublin and the highest productivity levels.”
The Chamber president hailed 2016 as a promising year for the region, citing growing employment, the arrival of new business and some significant capital developments in the area, including Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the Capitol. He added: “Our airport, a key asset, achieved traffic growth of 8%, more growth planned for 2017 and beyond, and direct transatlantic flights commencing in
mid-2017, a milestone achievement.”
However, there are some issues to overcome to ensure that Cork performs at its best, Mr O’Connell said.
He called for progress on a number of major infrastructural projects to ensure that Cork keeps growing
in the coming years, identifying the housing shortage in the city as an issue and calling for the rapid delivery of the event centre.
He also pinpointed the Dunkettle interchange upgrade, the Ringaskiddy and Macroom roads and the long-awaited Cork-Limerick motorway as essential infrastructure needed by the entire region.
“With collective focus, support and buy-in, these will all be delivered and be substantial strategic assets for our region into the future,” he said.
Mr O’Connell also called for a speedy resolution to the ongoing row over the city and county boundary, insisting that a ‘timely’ decision is needed to allow the region to move forward.
Brexit and the changing face of US politics also pose a major risk to Cork’s business interests, he said, but they also present opportunities to grow the city’s burgeoning financial sector, attract more foreign direct investment and support its indigenous business community.
“There are also clear opportunities in education, pharma services and ICT for us to capitalise on,” Mr O’Connell said.
“However, make no mistake — this is championship hurling. We need to be very accurate, take our scores, limit our wides, keep the free count against us low and be aware the competition is fierce.”
The imminent arrival of Apple’s iTunes operations in Cork, together with a ‘vibrant’ start-up sector are all reasons to be optimistic about the city’s future, Mr O’Connell concluded.