Newcastle West is to become a hub for the development of innovative new enterprises, thanks to the launch last week of the Red Door Business Incubation Centre which will provide would-be entrepreneurs from the West Limerick area with access to work space, mentoring, advice and support in a dedicated facility based in the town square.

Minister for the Envir-onment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, visited Newcastle West last Thursday to officially open the centre which has been developed by Newcastle West and District Chamber of Com-merce, with the assistance and support of Limerick Institute of Technology and funded in part by West Limerick Resources under the Rural Development Programme. Located in the Red Door building, the Incubation Centre is on the first and second floors, incorporating eight work stations on one floor with a meeting room, toilets and small kitchen area on the other.

Ann Liston, President of Newcastle West and Dis-trict Chamber of Com-merce, explained that the organisation recognised the need to develop the centre, having been app-roached on a number of occasions by individuals from the West Limerick area who had good business ideas but lacked suitable workspace and the key infrastructure such as broadband, marketing and branding support necessary to develop them. Ann is also keen to point out that the centre, though based in Newcastle West, is for the benefit of the wider West Limerick area.

In 2012 the Chamber of Commerce entered into discussions with LIT which already provides business incubation space and support to new business through its Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre in Limerick. Building on their experience in the area, the Chamber and LIT agreed to work together to develop a similar Business Incubation Centre in Newcastle West.

In 2012 the Chamber of Commerce approached local development company West Limerick Resources seeking support to develop the initiative. Following discussions, the group subsequently submitted a formal app-lication to refurbish their premises, install a broadband and telecom system and to purchase equipment including work stations. Funding was also sought to set up a new dedicated website and to deliver the Enterprise START Training Prog-ramme. The Board of West Limerick Resources approved a grant of nearly €80,000 towards the project.

With work on the centre now complete, interested individuals are currently being invited to submit applications to participate in the EnterpriseSTART Training Programme, which will be used as a screening and assessment process to identify the eight individuals who will be offered space in the Business Incubation Centre.

See photos of the opening on page 15.