Converting conversations into real opportunities

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Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership chief executive Liam McElligott. Photo: Jillian Ryan

LIMERICK has become a business and employment city. It is now on the international stage with the possibility of becoming a modular gateway to Europe.

That’s the view of Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership chief executive Liam McElligott who says that the work that has gone on over the last ten years means that the city and county can thrive with its people to the forefront.

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“Some years ago, the notion that Limerick needed to create 10,000 jobs was somewhat aspirational and an amazing statement to make. Yet steadily and methodically, like peeling back an onion, we’ve had multi-billion euro investments like Regeneron transforming the economic outlook.

“It was a ‘phoenix from the ashes’ scenario and this is what has made Limerick great again.

“What I love about Limerick at the moment is that we have been having conversations in the city that have been very engaging and very productive. It’s invigorating to be here at this time.”

The vastly experienced executive was one of the co-founders of Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership (LEDP) which was set up in 2000 in response to the closure of Krups who were major employers in the area for many years.

The founding principles of LEDP were of employment generation and being a conduit for social, educational and economic development of Limerick and the surrounding area.

Through relationships established with diverse groups, it has become an advocate and channel for change in the social, economic, educational and regenerative processes in play in Limerick and the surrounding areas.

It is through this lens that its chief executive shares his experience of Limerick’s emergence from the difficulties of its past.

“There was talk of multi-billion dollar companies replacing lost jobs. There was talk of film industry here. There was talk of many things happening including us becoming a hub for the tech industry and more.

“What a hoot. But steadily the work has produced the results. We have major FDI employers, we have a film industry and we have our third level colleges feeding the economy more and more.

“The conversations we are having across the board and then the ability to bring them to fruition is possibly the most exciting thing in the city – and that is what we in Limerick are about – just getting it done”.

He believes that the education process has been “very supportive of Limerick’s ability to change and move on. We are producing bright kids out of UL, LIT and Mary I as well as the many other institutions that are feeding into them.

Echoing this sentiment, LEDP manager George Lee said that when UL started out as the National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE), it coincided with Ireland’s entry into the EU.

“Indigenous businesses began to struggle – bacon curing, shoemaking and more – but with the college we were actually beginning the process of setting ourselves up for the future.

“We started producing graduates of quality and things started to happen with the arrival of top-level companies and this continues today.

Looking towards the future, Liam McElligott says that with an expectation to deliver quickly on plans, “you are into the realms of instant gratification and that doesn’t exist.

“Solid, steady and relentless progression is what you are looking for because that is more sustainable for the future.

“The way the city and the region is going, it’s better that we cleared the mist with the unification of the local authorities and the combined unified message of business promotion.

“We are operating on a level that we hadn’t done before and Limerick is now the most interesting city on the island.

“It is one thing to have conversations but you have to make sure that people are listening as it is only a monologue otherwise.

“We had a conversation one evening and it turned into the creation of Troy Studio – so anything is possible once the right people talk and create a partnership.

“Since the early part of the century, Ireland exported its people to foreign lands. “We were sending up to 50,000 people a year out of the country in cattle boats. The future to me is turning our back on all of that and retaining what we have – even to the point of bringing people back to continue to drive our economy.

“It is not inconceivable for Limerick to be a gateway in terms of multi-modal direct gateway portal into Europe.

And as for Brexit, the LEDP boss is remarkably sanguine

“It’s only a blip in life in terms of what we have already overcome,” he concludes.