Ferbane Food Campus, Co Offaly, was awarded national winner in the ‘Community Business Enterprise Initiatives’ category in the annual Pride of Place Awards – known affectionately by many as the ‘Community Oscars’ – on Saturday (26 November) in Belfast.

15253399_1440044726025610_4249653436691231551_nThe Ferbane Food Campus is an innovative flagship project in West Offaly. Bord na Mona and the ESB rationalised in the 90’s significantly reducing local employment. In response, Ferbane Town Development Committee was established and drew up an initial 5 year plan, an outcome of which was the development of the Ferbane Business and Technology Park and the establishment of a Community owned not for profit company Ferbane Business & Technology Park Ltd. with the principal aim of generating employment opportunities in the area.

Subsequent to a feasibility study in 2012, the Ferbane Food Campus was also established in the Business Park. Phase 1 was the development of a time-share kitchen and training facility for people trying to develop new food related products with market potential. This is now used by a range of local entrepreneurs. Phase 2 is to secure premises for food incubation businesses, as a step up facility for those using the kitchen, and phase 3 will focus on attracting established food producers to the campus to increase local employment – https://www.ferbanefoodcampus.ie

Ferbane Food Campus is a state-of-the-art time-share kitchen rental and training facility, situated in the heart of the Midlands in Ferbane Business and Technology Park in Co. Offaly.

Donal Egan is the full-time Business Development Manager for the Business Park and Food Campus and he is responsible for on-site training, marketing, administration and mentoring for businesses on site. Donal has extensive experience in the food industry including as a chef, trainer, food product developer.

Ferbane Food Campus runs a range of accredited and non-accredited training courses onsite including: Train the Trainer, Food Safety HACCP, Digital Marketing, I.T. courses and most recently the Food Academy Programme which is supported by Super Valu and Offaly Local Enterprise Office ( LEO).

Supports and services onsite include Brosna Press Creative Design and Print; Optimum Internet Solutions a website developer; Glass Innovations, bottled packaging and design; Gael Pac Food Packaging. Mentoring support and advice from the Board and the Business Development Manager is also provided to tenants at Ferbane Food Campus. A modern childcare facility is also on-site at Ferbane Business & Technology Park.

County Councils nominate entries to the Pride of Place all-Ireland competition each year. This is local authority recognition of excellent ongoing voluntary activity in communities as overall representatives of each county, a huge recognition and one that makes every entry already a winner. Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick, Cathaoirleach, Offaly County Council congratulated the three entries of Kilcormac, Ballycommon and Ferbane noting that “committees and communities undertook great preparation for site judging visits in July, and we thank you”.

Regarding Ferbane, he acknowledged the level of support provided from the (now concluded) West Offaly Enterprise Fund, Shannon Development/Enterprise Ireland, Offaly Co.Council,  Offaly Local Development Company, Athlone Institute of Technology, The Local Community and Board members of Ferbane Business and Technology Park to assist developing the original vision of the Food Campus. Cllr Fitzpatrick thanked Cooperation Ireland, organizers of the competition and IPB as the main sponsor, praising their commitment to recognizing communities in Ireland.

Remarking on Ferbane Food Campus, the judges said “this innovative winning entry evolved as a response to the loss of more than 1200 jobs from the downsizing of two major employers in the area. They created a business park and then the Food Campus to produce food related products and provide employment and training opportunities for many more. This initiative is making a real difference!”

Offaly County Council Chief Executive Anna Marie Delany praised the three entrants from Offaly, praising the work the communities undertake year round as the reason the Council had also nominated Kilcormac and Ballycommon. On the achievement of Ferbane, she advised that this is “a great opportunity for the county to promote the excellent business development facilities in Offaly, in which the innovative Ferbane Food Campus plays an important role”. Kevin Gavin, Chair of Ferbane Food Campus was delighted to accept the award on behalf of the Board, the operational team and the start up food entrepreneurs who use the Campus services.

Tom Dowling, founder of the event and Chair of the Pride of Place Committee congratulated all groups and said “Now in its’ 14th year, the competition continues to grow with communities nominated by Local Authorities all over Ireland, demonstrating their pride in their place to our judges.”