Regional Enterprise Summit 2019 - Panel 1

Remote Working and Coworking in Rural Ireland – Regional Enterprise Summit

With remote working and coworking becoming an ever-increasing trend in Ireland, local entrepreneurs in Meath have been telling their stories – at the recent Regional Enterprise Summit held in Kells Tech Hub – of how this new concept of the flexible workplace has transformed both their lives and careers.

The Kells Tech Hub recently hosted the inaugural Regional Enterprise Summit – the centrepiece of Meath Enterprise Week #MEW2019 – and business leaders from across the county got to hear how three Meath-based workers have got their work-life balance back on track by remote working from the new state of the art coworking hub.

The summit, the first of its kind held in the region, brought together speakers from both the private and public sector as well as business groups and enterprise support agencies to discuss topics which centred on entrepreneurship and regional economic development. There was a particular focus on innovation, collaboration and shared learning as a means of both starting and scaling a business.

Des Fitzgerald is typical of the type of commuter the Kells Tech Hub is keen to attract. Working for Dublin-based firm Twisted Image as design and projects manager, he was fed up of the daily grind of the commute to the city each day, spending 16 hours a week in traffic and coming home exhausted in the evenings.

After handing in his notice to quit, however, his boss asked him if he’d consider staying with the company but working instead from the Kells Tech Hub in his native town. He jumped at the opportunity and now only needs to go to Dublin once a week or so to sign off on projects.

“I genuinely get more work done when working remotely,” he told the audience. “Everything about working remotely in a coworking hub is right. It does work – it’s very uncomplicated and straightforward; it does put a structure on your life.”

Des Fitzgerald, Twisted Image

Eugene Cahill of 5D Design, also based in the Kells Tech Hub, is an employee-turned-entrepreneur who also extols the virtues of not having to travel to a central place of work. He was forced to dig deep when he was made redundant after Hewlett-Packard in Leixlip closed its doors early in 2018.

Having spent 20 years with the company, he came up with a plan for his own business and today uses the facilities of the local coworking hub just 10 minutes from his home in Crossakiel.

A design engineer by profession, he now provides a design and modelling service for the mechanical assembly and fabrication industries, availing of all the facilities on-site, which include a technologically advanced workspace and high-speed broadband.

“You have to go outside your comfort zone,” he said. “If you are feeling uncomfortable, then you know you are doing the right thing.”

Asked about one piece of advice he would give to would-be
entrepreneurs, he added:

“Keep a positive outlook and have faith on your own skills. Be OK with
feeling uncomfortable.”

Eugene Cahill, 5D DesignEugene Cahill, 5D Design

Tech entrepreneur and former maths teacher John McGowan has taught classes all around the world, but he has now found his niche developing apps in the Kells Tech Hub. A native of the United States, he has found a great authenticity in working with people here.

“People are honest and authentic here. It’s a great place to be and you can enjoy a good quality of life,” he told the audience.

John McGowan, Tech Entrepreneur

The summit also heard from Marie O’Riordan, head of PR with Prepaid Financial Services (PFS) in Navan, which has recently been sold to Australia’s EML Payments for €327 million.

The fintech firm is on a major upward trajectory in terms of growth and will shortly move to new premises in Trim as it has outgrown its current base in the IDA Business Park in Johnstown.

“We are hiring intensely locally, bringing fintech jobs and employment to Meath,” she said. “Earlier in the year, we hired 50 people, recently we advertised another 50 jobs and right now we have another 44 vacancies in the company.”

Marie O’Riordan, Head of PR with Prepaid Financial Services (PFS)

Ultimately, PFS hopes to employ up to 750 people in Trim, Co Meath.

Minister of State for Housing & Urban Development Damien English, TD, said Meath was a county that has taken a lead in regional economic development through the work of organisations such as Meath Enterprise, Meath County Council and Meath Chamber.

“Meath has been very successful in taking that regional approach. Meath Enterprise has constantly promoted the case to work together, network together, pool our resources and win for the county,” he said.

Damien English TD, Minister of State for Housing & Urban Development

Gary O’Meara, CEO of Meath Enterprise, said the idea of a regional enterprise summit was –

“To be more focused on what it is we are doing and that we are more aligned with regional and national strategies”.

He added: “The purpose of this summit was to have some conversations that needed to be had and to take a look at some of the things that are actually happening, some of the challenges we face and some of the opportunities, but also hopefully to have some actions that can be progressed at a local, regional and national level.”

Gary O’Meara is CEO of Meath Enterprise and Chairperson of the National Association of Community Enterprise Centres in Ireland – NACEC