Hundreds of local jobs are a step closer after plans for a locally-based centre of excellence for disaster relief received strong European support.
A group of businessmen from Inishowen and Derry are aiming to establish the ‘Centre of Engineering Excellence Research and Development Centre’ after purchasing a three acre site at Skeoge Industrial Estate near the Donegal-Derry border.
They envisage the centre will reboot the local economy by bringing scores of high tech engineering jobs to the local area.
They will combine these with the ‘cluster’ of local existing engineering companies to research and develop products to address the needs of disaster relief agencies and “stock pile” them for Government.
On Tuesday, two of the businessmen, Colm McKenna, of Broad Enterprises Ltd and Texaco, Muff and engineering company owner Stephen Wade (SWF Fabrications NI Ltd) attended meetings in the European Parliament and offices of the European Commission in Brussels, facilitated by Martina Anderson MEP.
They met with Dr Dimitri Corpakis, Head of the EU’s Directorate General for Research and Development and Caterine Ebah Moussa, Policy Officer of the EU Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection who were both “supportive and informative” and agreed that the centre would could be an internationally-leading player in the future of disaster relief.
Dr Corpakis is now considering an invitation to visit Derry on his next visit to the region.
Additionally, Mohammad Alfasmi, who has links with the Dubai Innovation Centre, has expressed interest to Colm McKenna in the proposal and indicated they had “identified a new market.”
The duo held separate meetings with Farha Brahmu of Invest NI and Una Downey of the Office of Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels.
Mr McKenna and Mr Wade, who are part of a group which also includes Patrick Simpson of Fortuna Enterprises Ltd- whose family’s portfolio includes the Superbowl Complex in Derry and Tul na Ri in Carndonagh, George McCormick of Greencastle Energy Management Systems and Rob Gallagher of Foyle Golf, said disaster relief was “unfortunately a growing market” and their concept “should be at the core” of a long-term economic plan for the local area.
Mr McKenna has also highlighted the proposal with Minister Arlene Foster and First Minister Peter Robinson and is also hopeful of the backing of the newly-formed Council as well as Derry’s Chamber of Commerce.
Mr McKenna told the Journal the Skeoge Project for Disaster relief would be “massively beneficial to all people of this area” and is calling upon all political parties, North and South to “put their weight behind the project.”