Invest Wexford conference looks at how to maximise Wexford's potential
A major conference has taken place outlining how those within the commercial and business sectors in county Wexford can work together to maximise the potential of the county in the coming years.
The Invest Wexford conference took place in the Riverside Park Hotel and was organised by the CEO of Enniscorthy & District Chamber, the Enniscorthy Municipal District Manager, Ger Mackey, and Ed Murphy, from Invest Wexford.
It was the first seminar of its type held in the county and there were business sector representatives from around the county in attendance.
The speakers at the event included Christian Pollard (Opus financial services; Gerard Reynolds (BD); Edwina Dunne (GrandPad); and Patrick McGee (IDA North America).
Among those in attendance at the seminar were Dr Patrick Prendergast, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin; Barbara Jones, Irish Ambassador to Mexico; Assistant Garda Commissioner, David Sheehan, Minister Paul Kehoe; Gillian Baker, Development Advisor with Enterprise Ireland, and Tom Foley, Director of AIB Plc.
A number of local councillors were also in attendance including the Cathaoirleach of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council, Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan.
Ed Murphy is the Senior Economic Advisor for Wexford County Council, and in welcoming everyone to the event he said that in addition to Enniscorthy being in a position to become one of the most prosperous towns in Ireland going forward the county as a whole is also ideally positioned to maximise its potential if the business sector works together and adopts a positive attitude over the next five years.
'Unemployment in Wexford and in particular in Enniscorthy is high,' said Mr Murphy in his opening address.
He said there is an issue with people leaving the model county and not returning.
Mr Murphy said that should not be the case and that more can be done to entice and encourage skilled workers back to their native county.
'Invest Wexford will be running an event in Dublin on February 20 where we will be encouraging Dublin-based companies to consider setting up additional offices in Wexford,' he said.
With regard to the seminar he said the idea behind it was to generate ideas from stakeholders as to how county Wexford and towns like Enniscorthy can grow over the next five years.
Before inviting the guest speakers to address the event he said job creation in the county will only come about by people working with the local authority, the IDA, and Enterprise Ireland.
Christian Pollard, from financial services company, Opus, was the first speaker and said his company initially set up an Irish office in Dublin in 2015 - having begun in his native Bermuda.
'In early 2019 we set up an office in Wexford, in Enniscorthy,' he said, and highlighted that Dublin becoming increasingly uncompetitive in terms of costs was a major factor.
'Dublin was great to us in 2015 but as each has gone on it's become less competitive,' he said.
He said his company first looked at Ireland as a result of the IDA inviting it to do so.
'We looked across Europe including places like Poland but we were attracted to here,' he said.
He said setting up in county Wexford with the office in Enniscorthy was very advantageous to the company.
'We have nine employees at the moment and we have new people coming in [early this year] and we have taken out another floor in the building that we are in here,' he said.
'There will be 15 people working there in the next few months and we will be hopefully moving into the courthouse and increasing our staff to around 60 people within the next two to two-and-a-half years,' he added.
Mr Pollard said the ultimate goal of the company will be to set up its office in the Enniscorthy Technology Park when its office space comes on-stream.
'When that becomes available we should be able to get to 100 employees within the next five years,' he said.
Gerard Reynolds is Director of Operations with BD (Becton Dickinson) Enniscorthy, and he outlined to the attendees the nature of the company - which is involved in the manufacture of medical devices.
'It was originally Clearstream Technologies,' he told the seminar.
'There are 480 people employed there and we have no issue filling roles,' he said.
However, he also commented that sometimes difficulties arise in filling senior roles within the business.
He said staff turnover is less than 1 per cent per year and that it's attractive for people to work in the area.
Mr Reynolds said people want to move back to Wexford but added: 'People do not move here as a career progression move so it tends to be a more long term move.'
'Our issue is attracting people to senior levels and getting them to move here,' he said.
Significantly, Mr Reynolds told the seminar that there were instances where people had moved to Enniscorthy but moved out again because they felt there wasn't much happening.
He then said more needs to be done to ensure that people know what is happening in the town and county.
Mr Reynolds also said access to third level education is an important aspect of attracting people to Wexford but said the cost of housing and 'relatively low rental options' is another issue.
With regard to his own company Mr Reynolds expressed hope for the future and anticipated growth and expansion in the months and years ahead.
'We have a lot of talent in this area and they are driving our ability to grow,' he said.
Patrick McGee's is based in New York city and his role within the IDA is to attract companies in Canada and the USA to Ireland.
He told the seminar that location is one of the things that companies look at when considering alternative areas to set up new or expanding offices.
'We have to highlight competitiveness in Ireland,' said Mr McGee.
'When companies visit [here] then we can put different locations on the map,' he added.
He said availability of manufacturing space is another important factor and commented that the Technology Park in Enniscorthy will be very positive for the county.
However, he said there is a lot of scope for development in the county and added that Wexford is a county that could be targeted at companies that have reached capacity in other sites in Ireland - especially those that are located in Dublin and wish to expand outside of the capital.
Mr McGee said towns like Enniscorthy and county Wexford in general are ideally positioned to benefit from that.
'The IDA is a sales and marketing agency and the product has to be really good,' he said.
He commented that availability of options is another factor that Wexford can benefit from in addition to having a skilled workforce.
'Having availability of property is key and they will look at other options after that,' said Mr McGee.
He said investment follows when the county is attractive to interested parties.
'People have to feel that they want to live in a place first,' said Mr McGee.
'People like myself who live abroad, we want to move back to Wexford.'
Edwina Dunne is the Chief Executive Officer of GrandPad, which is based in Gorey,
She said office space in the Hatch Lab is ideal for her company and that when she brought company founder, Scott Lien to the office for the first time he was very impressed by what he saw.
'When I brought Scott to the building he said 'that is really nice, who is in that?' and I said you are,' Ms Dunne told the seminar.
'We employ home workers,' she said.
Our people work from home and that really suits them,' she added.
Ms Dunne said she had commuted to Dublin in the past and it necessitated her leaving home at 5.30 a.m. and she did that for 10 years.
Outlining the benefits of operating out of county Wexford she said employees in GrandPad also have the added benefit of being able to work without going out the door.
Ms Dunne also said the benefit of working out of the Hatch Lab is that there are other skilled people close by if her company needs them.
Ms Dunne also said there is optimism within her company for the future and outlined plans for growth.
'We are very optimistic for GrandPad for 2020,' she said.
'We will be employing a lot more people.'