What is the WDC?
In an era where acronyms are king, WDC stands for Western Development Commission.
So, what is the Western Development Commission?
The Western Development Commission is a statutory organisation which was set up in 1998. It operates under and reports to the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government. The general functions of the WDC are to ‘foster and encourage economic and social development in the Western Region’. Our remit covers the five counties in Connaught plus Donegal and Clare. In geographical terms the region encompasses 37% of the national land mass but only 18% of the national population. 68% of that 18% live outside of Gateway or Hub towns so it is clear that we are dealing with a predominately rural environment.
How is WDC Performing?
Broadly speaking the WDC has become the pre-eminent regional development agency in Ireland. Despite continued reductions in staff and finance we are performing well and delivering the goods. Since our inception we can claim to have influenced the creation or retention of 1,899 jobs.
In 2012 alone, an impressive total of 292 new jobs were created through WDC growth programmes.
Just a few examples of programmes launched in 2012: –
• Creative Industries Micro Loan Fund (€1m over 3 years) – This fund has supported over 60 jobs in its first year
• Regional tourism marketing plan (€1.4m) – This is a scheme initiated by WDC where several agencies have been brought together to market the region largely via Ireland West Airport Knock. The first year led to 13,000 new visitors delivering over €3m to the region’s economy
• Re-Connect Diaspora Programme (€23,000)- linking the region to the global diaspora. Initial events in the UK have led to over 40 new jobs e.g. Lafferty group investment in Mayo
• Creative Edge EU Export Growth Programme (€1.2m) – An innovative programme to help the region’s creative industry to access global markets. At time of launching the programme 66% of businesses in the sector had no contact with markets outside of Ireland. Today almost 200 businesses are linking to global customers through the www.mycreativeedge.eu website. We are aiming for hundreds of jobs in the near term and thousands by the end of the decade through this initiative.
• RASLRES Bio Tool Service Product Launch – contributing to an estimated 21 new businesses in the sector.
• On top of the foregoing recent initiatives, we have the on-going work of disbursing the Western Investment Fund. This fund has invested over €34m in 96 companies currently employing 1,600 people. These companies have paid over €43m in salaries and wages of which €11.8m has gone back to the national exchequer through payroll taxes.
• We continue to carry out strong policy and regional analysis which enables the state to invest in suitable “access infrastructure” to realise the regions potential for growth, e.g. energy, broadband and transport.
In summary, the WDC is a small yet highly dynamic and flexible organisation driven by a committed board working with highly motivated and professional staff. But there is a lot more that we need to undertake and achieve for the region. We are eager to take on that challenge. We are re-assured by having strong support from our national government and are confident of being given the additional resources which are required to play an expanded role in developing the region.
Ray McGreal, CEO