Deputy Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr. Peter O’ Brien, Guest of Honour, the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann Senator Jerry Buttimer, Padraig O’ Sullivan TD, Colm Burke TD, President of Cork Business Association Kevin Herlihy, Councillors, members of Little Island Community Association, Guests and Friends joining us this evening, on behalf of Little Island Business Association, I welcome you all to our annual President’s Dinner and awards night.
Firstly, I want to thank sincerely our past President’s for their great work for the business associations over the past 12 years since it was established. As a not for profit association looking after, supporting and promoting the Little Island area, the remit of the association is to advance the brand of Little Island in every way possible, make the area attractive to inward investment and ensure that we have a community that works for everyone.
So much has happened since we last hosted this event in 2019, so much progress has been made in Little Island and district and so many new projects are now operational here.
So much investment has been made by our more than 1,000 companies that are based here and the more than 8,000 permanent employees that work here. That number is expected to grow to over 10,000 by 2026, and all in an area where more than 18,000 people live, work and visit each day.
Our infrastructure here in Little Island has improved dramatically in recent years, and the new Dunkettle Interchange is reaping enormous benefits for Little Island in particular, and all of Cork will benefit when this ahead of schedule €215m projects fully opens ahead of schedule in Q1 of next year.
As well as all that is happening currently, all that is planned for Little Island is without doubt exciting and significant. In the Cork County Development Plan 2022-2028, a provision for 500 new homes is included, a new village centre, new bus lanes and cycle paths, new public realm works and much more. This is without doubt a significant vote of confidence in Little Island and its future from the elected members and the executive of Cork County Council, and I thank them all for that. While Little Island is the largest business district in Cork and in all of Ireland South, this new plan will see Little Island address some of the imbalance of residential living versus business living and Little Island has for over a decade called for this to be addressed.
I welcome the representatives of Little Island Community Association here tonight and Little Island Business Association is delighted to work in partnership with the Community Association and support them in everything that they see the need for in the area, and look forward to strengthening that relationship in the time ahead with some new initiatives that we are working on. Little Island was first and foremost a residential area, ever before a commercial enterprise was opened here, and while Little Island is now designated as a business district, Little Island Business Association believes in supporting an overall community model.
Our residential community of Little Island is the corner stone of this area, as it has been since the very beginning. As the residential community grows with the new housing planned for the area, so too will our support of the civic elements of Little Island and as part of our new ‘GROWING OUR COMMUNITY TOGETHER’ policy, we will be asking every business and every employee in this area to come together in a new initiative to support the community, build on the great community spirit that exists here and enhance the civic amenities and civic spirit of Little Island, in a way that will be a showcase for every other community in Ireland when ‘business meets community and business supports community’. This will be for the benefit of everyone that calls Little Island their home, be it their residential home or their business home.
I am delighted to see the former Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey here with us tonight and I thank him for his exceptional support of Little Island and the business association over his nine-year tenure as Chief Executive, which he recently stepped down from. The positive engagement that the business association has with Cork County Council is a key element of why our great area continues to develop. Tim’s great leadership of Cork County Council, and that of Cork City Council over his 13 years in these roles has been hugely beneficial for all of Cork. Your leadership, strategic vision and ambition for all of Cork will leave a lasting and profound impact on our city and county, and I wish you every success in your new role as Chief Executive of Greyhound Racing Ireland.
Of course, there is much that remains to be done here in our area, much of our infrastructure in the older part of Little Island dates back more than 60 years and is as we know not fit for purpose today. Only this year, after a 15-year battle, has the Harbour Point and Courtstown road, lighting, landscaping and infrastructure been fully rebuilt. This was a long battle fought by local businesses and us and it is great to see the results, and again I thank Cork County Council and Irish Water and all involved for delivering on this.
We are actively working on other areas also that need the same level of input and progress.
With an estimated €12m per year that is paid in commercial rates by businesses in this area, and as the largest business district in Cork, the expectations that we all have and want for this area must be delivered on by all of us and it is in working together in a strategic way that benefits this area and in turn, all of Cork.
Each year Little Island Business Associations hosts many visiting business people looking at locations in Cork to locate their businesses. These could be small independent and indigenous businesses or could be global brands seeking an Irish or European base. We do our very best to promote the area to these groups and have been very successful in attracting new projects to the area.
This year is seeing capital investment in projects in Little Island of over €400m. That is without doubt confidence in abundance for all of us.
2024 is also looking very promising and one project that is underway for a Q2 opening is a new veterinary hospital in Eastgate with an initial €5m investment by its Cork born founder. This, in addition to their existing state of the art veterinary hospital in County Meath may not be the type of project that we normally see here in Little Island, but it shows that our approach and our area is open to all types of businesses that will work for this area. Whether it is manufacturing, retail, services, hospitality, recreation, motor or others, any project that is good for this area will be supported and welcomed by your business association.
The future is certainly bright for Little Island, and with the support of you our members, the difference that this support makes in batting for an area is key to the results that are achieved.
As I have said, Little Island Business Association has a holistic view of what works for this area and in listening to you the members, our drive and ambition for the area in inclusive and wide reaching and will not stop, and my mission for my term as President includes delivering on the following objectives –
The enhancing of the existing infrastructure and in particular the infrastructure in the older parts of the island.
Seeking a better balance between residential and commercial development for the area with a focus on wanting to see 1,000 new homes for the area by 2040
Creating a stronger community support network for the residential and civic community by their corporate neighbours.
Enhancing the strong relationship between the Little Island, Glounthane, Fota, Carrigtwohill and Glanmire communities.
Seeking to progress the necessary third access route to enter and exit Little Island.
Seeking a greater contribution for Little Island of the commercial rates that the commercial community pays.
Enhancing the marketing and promotion of the Little Island & District model so that more local and global businesses see it as their preferred location to base their operations.
Creating The Little Island Showgrounds as a new location for external businesses to Little Island to be able to showcase their businesses, without having to establish a physical base in our area and that will allow any business from any part of Ireland to connect with the more than 1,000 companies in the area.
Establishing The Little Island Executive Forum as the board to represent the largest companies and employers of the area so that their voices are heard and so that they can feel confident that the substantial investments that they have made, are making and hopefully will continue to make is backed by a business association that will work with all other stakeholders in our area and in the greater Cork region.
To conclude, with 45,000 businesses in all of Cork employing 265,000 people, and with a current population of 540,000 citizens that is expected to grow to over 1m by 2040, Cork has the capacity to offer far more than many other regions in Ireland to national and international companies and citizens seeking a place to call home and to do business in. Little Island will do its part to continue to progress this vision, and with the great support of each of you, be you residents or businesses of this great area, we all have a role to play in that future vision, and Little Island Business Association stands ready and able to work with you and for you in progressing your vision for Little Island.