A MULTI-million pound plan to create 200 jobs by transforming the derelict former Health Centre site in Omagh into a business hub would only take 15 months to become a reality, once funding has been secured.
The proposed scheme, which is being driven by Omagh Enterprise Company, has grown in scale since it was first announced almost two years ago.
In July 2017, Nick O’Shiel, Omagh Enterprise Company chief executive, said that the planned £2.5m Enterprise and Innovation Hub earmarked for the vacant site on Mountjoy Road would house 30 businesses and create 125 new jobs.
Since then, the project has become even more ambitious.
Speaking to the UH last week, Mr O’Shiel said he envisaged the development providing work space for some 40 businesses and 200 employees.
Describing the plans as “massive”, the local business leader said that the economic boost would also help to regenerate the surrounding area, which has a number of derelict properties.
The projected cost of the scheme has also risen and now stands at around £3.5 million.
Although the Enterprise Company has invested its own capital to develop the project, more money is required from other sources to bring it to fruition.
Mr O’Shiel predicted that, if the funds were in place today, the proposed hub would be open within “12 to 15 months”.
West Tyrone MP, Órfhlaith Begley, who has been working closely with Omagh Enterprise Company in recent months, has met with a number of central government departments to press for funding for the project.
As part of these efforts, the Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy, Noel Lavery, has visited the derelict Mountjoy Road site, along with the Sinn Féin representative and Mr O’Shiel.
Ms Begley said, “The visit enabled us to showcase the site, which is strategically situated in a neighbourhood renewal community in the heart of Omagh town. The hub will act as a catalyst for the physical and socio-economic regeneration contributing to the reduction in the levels of vacant properties.”
The MP said that the site was also within close proximity to both the proposed Strule Shared Education Campus and the South West College, which would have the potential to develop links with up to 6,000 second and third-level students.
She said, “The Enterprise and Innovation Hub complements sub-regional and local council strategies. It will improve economic performance including local sustainable jobs, contributing to the Community Plan to develop an economy that is thriving, expanding and outward-looking.
“The draft programme for government states we prosper through a regionally-balanced economy and I will continue to directly engage with the various departments to seek funding in the time ahead.”
Ms Begley added, “The new business birth rate in this council area is well below the average in comparison to the rest of the North. This ground-breaking project is needed to reduce the gap in business birth rate and generate economic activity to contribute to making Omagh a more desirable place to live in.”
The former health centre building has been lying empty for two years, after the GP practices that had been housed there relocated to the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex on Donaghanie Road