Stock photo.

Progress on plan for Athlone digital and coworking hub

A flagship Digital Hub and Coworking facility in Athlone moved a step forward recently with the appointment of consultants to undertake a feasibility sudy.

Off the back of recent Government announcements relating to the opportunities for regional towns to attract more remote workers and businesses, the project, spearheaded by Athlone Chamber of Commerce, could see the development of a state-of-the-art facility in Athlone to accommodate over 200 workers. The feasibility study contract has been awarded to Kerry based Consultants HQConsulting, who already operate three hubs in the Kerry region under their HQKerry operations and are specialists in the development of coworking and digital hub facilities. The consultants will be supported by MCOH Architects from Portlaoise.

Speaking about the appointment, Alan Shaw, President of Athlone Chamber said: “We are looking forward to working with HQConsulting over the coming months, together with many stakeholders and interested agencies in the community.

“This project is about the future and one in a context where the work life landscape has been revolutionised over the past 15 months. We are in an exciting space and this feasibility study will hopefully set out a roadmap for Athlone Chamber in assisting with the delivery of a facility to accommodate the future in working spaces in this new era.”

Tom O’Leary of HQCoworking outlined: “Our intention is to identify if there is an opportunity to develop a Digital Hub and Coworking facility in Athlone town that will enable more quality employment in the area, and to allow remote workers and relocating companies to establish a base. The study aims to also identify the opportunity for new businesses to be grown out of the hub”.

The study process will be completed in four phases, the first of which is a needs analysis review, which will look at demand and ongoing viability of a remote working centre in Athlone. It will be followed by a location and facility review and assessment which will examine the technical and economic assessment in the running of the new facility.

Ken Tobin of HQCoworking said: “Our experience shows that creating the right environment in the centre of towns for hubs to develop, has a knock-on effect for the entire town and becomes a catalyst for further jobs to be created locally. Our own hubs have shown that if you provide the right opportunity new employment will be created and the recent Our Rural Futures document from Government underlines the positive economic impact hubs such as these can have for a local economy”.

While led by Athlone Chamber, the Athlone Digital Hub and Co-working Centre will be advanced by a collaboration between statutory agencies, community and private bodies. The project is supported by Just Transition funding, AIT, Westmeath County Council, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

Gerry McInerney, Athlone Chamber's thanked Just Transition and Westmeath County Council for funding to carry out the feasibility study.

“The aim of our group is to identify a suitable town centre building and deliver a dedicated green energy hub. This will provide landing space for large companies, space for SMEs and entrepreneurs to grow and also space for remote workers. We are delighted to be working with such experienced consultants and we look forward to their report in due course.”