Visitors to Expo show that Wexford means business
There was a buzz in the air at the sixth annual Wexford Business Expo, and it had nothing to do with the coffee on offer in Wexford County Hall.
In fact, the energy came from the hundreds of business-owners themselves, whose air of positivity served as a sure sign that business in the county is on the up.
The theme of this year's event, was 'Capitalising on the Economic Recovery', which focused on helping new ideas to grow and existing businesses to flourish. It certainly seemed fitting on the day as established company owners and business beginners alike joined together to swap ideas and advice.
One such person was Susan Murphy from Clonard, owner of online will-making service, Makemywill.ie. Having only established her business in January, this was Susan's first time exhibiting at the Expo.
'We have seen a really good uptake of our services so far. I came here to boost my business even more,' said Susan, who is a fully-qualified solicitor. 'I also hope to do some networking.'
Networking was also the aim of the game for Damian Busher from the Irish National Heritage Park, who was sure to attract attention from passers-by in his costume.
'Sometimes I am the only one in costume at these events but it's good to offer something different and stand out,' he said.
'We don't expect to directly gain much business from this event as there won't be many tourists here,' he went on to say. 'However, there is a certain networking aspect. Through mixing with representatives from the hotels for example, we might get more recommendations in the future.'
As tourism is a major industry in the county, it is no wonder that a large array of stands focused on Wexford's tourism potential. Over at the Lovegorey.ie stand, Angela Murphy and Dick White of Gorey Chamber introduced visitors to the wonders of the North Wexford coast with a display of scenic photographs. Across the street, Áine Comerford from the Maldron Hotel chatted with guests and stallholders about what they have to offer.
'We came here to connect with customers and reach out to any new businesses,' she said.
Representatives from Colclough Walled Gardens, Happy Campers, the Talbot Hotel and Visit Wexford were also on-site to fly the flag for Wexford as a tourist destination.
Although unemployment in the county has fallen, it is certainly an issue that cannot be ignored. Fran Gleeson, Employer Liaison Officer from Wexford Local Development, described the support that is available for those seeking an employment opportunity.
'We help people who are unemployed to find a job that suits them. By keeping a database of these people and their skills and liaising with local businesses who are recruiting, we can match employers with jobseekers,' he explained. 'It's a win-win situation.'
Maura Brown from Wexford Library was also on-hand to introduce people to their services, many of which may prove useful to those who are unemployed or thinking of starting a new business.
'A lot of people don't realise that we offer support to those who are looking to set up a business,' said Maura. 'The added benefit is that they are all free.'
AN array of guest speakers took to the mic on the day, boosting the morale of the thousands of people in attendance. First up was Wexford County Council Chairman, Cllr Tony Dempsey, who opened the event with a welcome speech.
'I feel a huge sense of privilege in showcasing everything wonderful in County Wexford,' he said.
Cllr Dempsey also took the opportunity to address the responsibility of local representatives in relation to employment.
'Politicians sometimes pretend that they can create jobs but the reality is we can't. What we can do is create the atmosphere to make business possible,' he said.
Vice President of Wexford Chamber, Karl Fitzpatrick also had some words of motivation for the crowds, encouraging business owners to exchange 50 business cards with others on the day.
Keynote speaker Walter O'Brien presented the final speech of the day.
'He is the leading light in the world of IT,' said Cllr Dempsey of his fellow Davidstown-native.
The ever-popular Angel's Den made a return to this year's Expo, providing a live arena for local business owners to deliver pitches to a panel of investors. Other highlights included The Boardroom, Business Connections and Speed Networking.
In his opening speech, CEO of Wexford County Council, Tom Enright, highlighted the importance of cooperation when it comes to encouraging growth.
'We must all work together to promote Wexford,' he said.
As the evening drew to a close and the crowds left County Hall laden down with business cards, ideas and advice, it was clear that everyone had listened.