A businessman who hopes to double his workforce by building a €500,000 food production facility in Co Cork says his plans have been stymied by cuts and changes to the State’s Leader funding scheme.
Jimmy Allen, managing director of De Róiste Foods in Baile Mhúirne, expects shortly to complete the purchase of a 1.9 acre site in nearby Réidh na nDoirí, on part of the area formerly occupied by a mushroom production facility.
He has been granted planning permission for a 600 sq m factory which will include a production hall, industrial catering kitchen, slicing rooms, and offices.
The company, whose products include sausages and black and white puddings, has grown rapidly since its foundation in 2012.
Now supplying Irish retail giants Musgraves and Dunnes Stores and in talks with Tesco, it has outgrown its unit on the Údarás na Gaeltachta business park in Baile Mhúirne.
The planned new facility would allow the business to expand, with its workforce increasing from nine to approximately 18.
Mr Allen envisages the facility as the first step in a possible food hub in Réidh na nDoirí and urged Údarás na Gaeltachta to purchase the remaining part of the site to provide start-up units.
However, he revealed his hopes were dealt a heavy blow by cuts in Leader funding announced during the planning process for the new De Róiste Foods facility.
Stressing the factory plan would still go ahead, he was critical of the decision not to allow the West Cork Development Partnership, with which he had been in discussions, to continue its administration of Leader rural development funding for the Múscraí Gaeltacht.
“When we started buying the site in Réidh na nDoirí, there was Leader funding available,” he explained.
“We sat down with West Cork Development and they were after doing a lot of funding for businesses in the area, and that support for small business was absolutely invaluable. We were getting very positive feedback.
"There was 75% funding from Leader at the time. Every bob we had ourselves was going into the new factory and the bank was going to make up the rest.”
De Róiste Foods’ first planning application was refused. A revised application has now been approved, but West Cork Development had in the meantime ceased to administer Leader funding.
It is now administered in Múscraí by Údarás na Gaeltachta, which recently announced €60,000 total funding for social inclusion and economic, enterprise, and job creation projects.
Mr Allen criticised Government policy regarding enterprise development and handling of Leader funds.
“They’re talking about developing small business but, in actual fact, they’re working against it,” he said.
“We had the best Leader funding not alone in Ireland but in Europe. I saw what they were doing for small businesses. Why break something that was working? They’ve given it to Údarás na Gaeltachta and they’ve given €60,000 for four years.”
Applying to a fund with such a small total available “wouldn’t be worth it by the time you’ve gone through the rigmarole”, he said. “You might get €1,500.”
Údarás Munster regional manager Dónal Ó Liatháin confirmed the €60,000 Leader funding total for Múscraí but said: “A strong case is being made by Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Local Community Development Committee to increase this budget significantly. The overall budget for the South Cork region was reduced by over 80%.”
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