Kilkee Chamber of Commerce has launched an appeal looking for people from all over the world with a connection to the town to invest in the future of Kilkee.
The last census report showed the population of Kilkee as 917, a drop of 31% (408) in just 10 years. The popular holiday resort also has one of the highest unemployment rates in County Clare (26%), and is one of the more disadvantaged communities in Clare.
In a bid to tackle these issues the Chamber have identified a range of state and local funding opportunities such as LEADER, Sports Capital Funding or schemes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme that could be harnessed to deliver much needed investment in the fabric of the town. The application and drawdown processes for these schemes have become such that they need to be approached almost in a professional manner and Kilkee Chamber feel they need to invest in the required expertise to capitalise on the opportunities they provide.
One such project that is already under way is the development of an international geo-science training facility for the town that will also provide space for educational and small enterprise development sectors in the wider Loop Head and West Clare areas. A LEADER grant from CLDC in 2013 delivered a feasibility study that showed the capacity for this project to deliver significant employment and economic opportunity to the town.
Since then the chamber of commerce have successfully applied for two further grants that will see the delivery of a combined geo-science training facility, education and enterprise hub. The first grant, from Enterprise Ireland (EI), has allowed the chamber to employ a project manager for two days per week with EI paying 50% of the salary cost of this employee.
The second grant, allocated by Clare County Council, under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, sees €100,000 ring-fenced for the capital expenditure involved in the purchase and development of a derelict building in the town. Kilkee Chamber will now have to raise the community contribution of 20%. Overall they need to raise €35,000 to draw down both of these grants in full.
The chamber already has a commitment of nearly €20,000 from local business people and now hope to go out to the wider community to raise the balance.
However the group have far bigger ambitions and today launched an appeal to raise €100,000 to invest in a range of both economic and social amenity projects over the course of the next 5 years.
Chamber member, Cillian Murphy, states that “we have identified a range of state and local funding opportunities such as LEADER, BIM FLAG, Sports Capital funding or schemes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme that well organised community groups can avail of in the near future, and the most important thing is to be ready for them when they are announced, to have the background work done with the local authority and to have the match funding requirements in place.”
He goes on to say “ the hardest thing for most community groups is to have a war chest of available funding built up to avail of these grants when they are announced, often with very short lead in times. We are trying to get ahead of the process by launching this fund raising appeal.”
Elaine Haugh Hayes, President of Kilkee Chamber of Commerce added, “there are many people from Limerick, and indeed from all over the world, who have a deep connection with Kilkee, through their childhood, their parents, grand parents and further back over many years. It matters to them that the town is vibrant, with public amenities they can enjoy when they are here during the summer season. They have invested themselves in the town and are an integral part of the community. We hope they will see the benefit of investing with us in a shared future for the town”
She added, “if we can reach our funding target of €100,000 we should be able to leverage an extra €400,000 to €500,000 in grant aid for projects in Kilkee. This would make a significant difference to the quantity and quality of amenities available for those living and visiting the town.”
The chamber have identified a number of projects under the heading “Kilkee: Live, Work, Play” that will see the focus of the town shift from just tourism development to raising awareness of the quality of life to be had and its potential as a place to live and work. The relocation of the Bus Eireann bus stop to somewhere that is more central and the provision of a bus shelter. Moving a number of walking and cycling trail heads as well as tourism information to the bus stop would give a more integrated, welcoming feel for those arriving by public transport. There is also potential to work with the local Farmers Market group to see what can be done to enhance the market in Kilkee.
A dedicated email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, has been set up for anyone that would like to get involved, find out more information.