Údarás na Gaeltachta is actively looking at developing a green-field site in Gaoth Dobhair for a food incubation hub.
The Gaeltacht body is also looking to repurpose or build new units to cater for a growing market in south-west Donegal.
Micheal Mac Giolla Easbuig is Regional Manager with Údarás na Gaeltachta in Donegal.
He said the changing nature of the economy is bringing fresh challenges as more and more companies embrace new technology.
“Significant sums of money had been invested over the past ten to fifteen years in making out-dated, traditional manufacturing units fit for purpose,” he said.
Údarás has a total property portfolio of 175 units, varying in size from small rooms to 10,000 square metre factories, across the Donegal Gaeltacht from Gleann Cholm Cille to Fánaid.
“Ten years ago a substantial amount of that space was vacant but over the last five years in particular, we’ve managed to fill a lot of the units,” he said.
That process has proven to be so successful that, in some parts of Donegal, Údarás are running out of space.
“We have thirty units in the South West from Ard an Rátha, Gleann and Carraig to Cill Charthaigh but 28 of these units are occupied. We’ve only two small spaces available so we’ll probably have to build new space somewhere but that will take time,” he said.
“Overall, there’s about an 82% occupancy rate in the Donegal Gaeltacht with another three to four per cent under negotiation. It’s very positive,” he added.
Last year, the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta approved several new projects for the Donegal Gaeltacht which will create 156 new jobs with an estimated total investment of over €3.95 million planned when these projects are up and running.
There were 2,304 full-time jobs in 220 Údarás na Gaeltachta supported companies in the Donegal Gaeltacht at the end of 2021. That’s up 25 per cent on the figures for 2011 when there were 1,867 jobs but more than 100 shy of the 2007 peak (2,428 jobs).
Around 85 per cent of those jobs have been created in micro enterprises with ten or less employees with Gallagher’s Bakery, Ard an Rátha, Fanad Fisheries and ProAmpac, which is based on the Gaoth Dobhair Industrial Park, among the larger employers last year.
Údarás inherited a lot of manufacturing factories which have been repurposed in recent years, like gteic in Gaoth Dobhair (former Dianorm radiator factory), the Crolly Distillery, a historic building constructed in 1902 which has recently undergone a major investment, and old ATT/Telectron building that is now home to NUIG’s Acadamh na Gaeilge, VHI Healthcare and further office space.
“We’ve had to move away from traditional manufacturing into enterprise units and digital hubs and by the end of this year we’ll have nine gteic hubs operating in Donegal.
“We had to invest heavily in many of the older buildings to bring them up to standard and it remains a work in progress,” he said.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to develop.
“We’re looking at more niche markets.
“There’s been a significant number of food related enquiries and we’re looking at a food incubation hub in Gaoth Dobhair – on a green field site or within a repurposed building”.
“We’re different to Enterprise Ireland or the IDA in that property solution is to the core of what we offer in addition to financial incentives.
“We really have to put many turn-key facilities/units on the plate for our clients as they won’t come and build it themselves,” he said.
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