AN “optimistic momentum” for Strabane should continue well into 2018 and even beyond, if recent employment and infrastructure announcements are built upon.
This was the message from local leaders this week, as they reflected on what has been one of the town’s most successful years since the Credit Crunch and the economic downturn.
Citing the new life being breathed into the town centre by a number of new businesses as well as job boosts from both home-grown companies and international players, politicians and commerce chiefs alike are in agreement that 2018 could present a collective opportunity for locals.
West Tyrone MLA Michaela Boyle points to the imminent commencement of the long-awaited A5 phase from Derry to Strabane as an infrastructure development which could open up the north west to even further investment.
Similarly, president of the Strabane Chamber of Commerce, Martin Gallen believes “great things” are in the pipeline for the town.
“You have the Gas to the West project which is on-going, all the public realm works and then there’s the broadband works which are continuing,” Michaela Boyle said. “All these things demonstrate the huge investment the town has seen in recent months.
“If you compiled everything, if you sat down and made a list, you might be talking about an investment of some £5million.
“There is a real plethora of good things and investments happening at the minute.”
Ms Boyle also pointed to the jobs boost provided by Fabplus earlier this month, when it was announced that the Orchard Way engineering business was expanding to the tune of £7million and with an anticipated end result of 83 new jobs. At the time, it was predicted that this one development could generate £1.7million in salaries annually, within the local economy.
“You also have Glenfresh, O’Neill’s… there so many other local businesses which are doing great work and succeeding,” she continued.
“I hope and believe there is more to come.
“I am very hopeful for the future. I think we all have to shrug off our negativity and be hopeful for the year ahead. We have to start talking up the town, be positive… already there is a real optimistic momentum.”
Alongside Fabplus’s expansion, Chamber of Commerce president, Martin Gallen noted Dragon Brand Foods becoming the first tenant of Strabane Business Park. Announced in October past, the Strabane company is set to open a new 7,500 square foot manufacturing facility at the Melmount Road facility as part of a £550,000 investment.
He further noted the restaurant and retail jobs created by McDonald’s and House Proud which both opened in December, the former creating 120 full and part-time staff.
House Proud’s arrival also revamped the former Linton and Robinson’s store on Abercorn Square – which had laid dormant since 2013.
“Strabane is in the healthiest condition it’s been in for a long time,” Mr Gallen said. “There’s a long-lost buzz back in the town centre again and a nice variety of shops instead of charity shops and pound shops. This is all due to the fact that we finally have a great group of people from different organisations working together for its benefit.”
He added, “The recent boost to the town is just the beginning there are great things in the pipeline for Strabane and it is long overdue.”