Newcastle West is to become a hub for the development of innovative new enterprises thanks to the launch this week of the Red Door Business Incubation Centre which will provide would-be entrepreneurs, from the West Limerick Area, access to work space, mentoring, advice and support in a dedicated facility to be based in the towns square.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan will visited Newcastle West this week to officially open the centre which has been developed by the Newcastle West and District Chamber of Commerce, with the assistance and support of LIT and funded in part by West Limerick Resources under the Rural Development Programme.
Located in the Red Door building, the Incubation Centre is situated on the first and second floors, incorporating eight work stations on one floor with a meeting room, toilets and small kitchen facility on the other.
Ann Liston, President of the Newcastle West and District Chamber of Commerce explained that the organization recognized the need to develop the center having been approached on a number of occasions by individuals, from the West Limerick Area, who had good business ideas but who lacked suitable work space and key infrastructure such as broadband, marketing and branding support necessary to develop them. Ann is also keen to point out that the Centre, though based in Newcastle West, is for the benefit of the wider West Limerick Area.
“The Centre will offer the entrepreneur a business address, high speed broadband, a website, a fully equipped work station with desktop PC, WIFI on each floor and a top class business telephone system. It will also provide a networking environment – including full support and back up in all the appropriate areas.”
In 2012 the Chamber of Commerce entered into discussions with Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) which already provides business incubation space and support to new business through its Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre in Limerick. Building on their experience in the area, the Chamber and LIT agreed to work together to develop a similar Business Incubation Centre in Newcastle West.
“LIT will bring to the table, an enormous pool of talent and experience in various fields associated with research, development and entrepreneurship,” highlights Ms Liston. “It already has the tools, the training expertise and the material required for such a venture. It will also provide access to LIT Campus facilities, if and when required.”
In 2012 the Chamber of Commerce approached local development company, West Limerick Resources, seeking support to develop the initiative. Following discussions, the group subsequently submitted a formal application to refurbish their premises, install a Broadband and Telecom system and to purchase equipment including work stations. Funding was also sought to set-up a new dedicated website and to deliver the Enterprise START Training Programme. The Board of West Limerick Resources approved a grant of nearly €80,000 towards the project.
“This is the first venture of its kind for West Limerick and will offer all the facilities of a fully developed organization to individuals who are only getting their feet on the first rung of the business ladder,” says Joan Casey, Rural Development Programme Coordinator with West Limerick Resources.
“West Limerick Resources are delighted to be in a position to support the Chamber of Commerce in this initiative and believe that this centre has the potential to make a positive impact on local employment opportunities. From our on-going work with business start-ups we are keenly aware of the challenges posed by lack of enterprise development experience, suitable premises and the need for on-going advice and guidance. The Red Door Business Incubation Centre is an innovative way to address these issues and help young graduates, and individuals, turn their ideas into reality.”
With work on the centre now complete, interested individuals are currently being invited to submit applications to participate on the EnterpriseSTART Training Programme, which will be used as a screening and assessment process to identify the eight individuals who will be offered space in the Business Incubation Centre. The six week EnterpriseSTART Training Programme will commence in January 2014 and offer a real market-place perspective on what is involved in creating a competitive and sustainable commercial enterprise. It is part of the plan to also offer the eight individuals, chosen to take up spaces in the centre, further support through the LIT LEAP programme. This twelve month programme will comprise of a range of integrated supports during the vital business start-up stage – emphasizing individual business coaching and mentoring.