Many hands make light work, a community push

By Niamh Costello, General Manager, GTC

Niamh Costello, General Manager, GTC

The notion that people who work together, be it in the same building or sector, constitute a community is a relatively new one. But it is no less relevant for that. The dictionary defines community as “the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common”, and over the last couple of weeks I have had good reason to ponder just what makes up a community or, indeed, community of communities.

Tom Forde didn’t work at Galway Technology Centre, but he was most certainly a member of our community – he was a neighbour here in Mervue, a strong supporter, a regular attendee at our events and someone to whom I often turned for advice or guidance. Like so many others, we were deeply saddened last week when news circulated of his passing after a period of illness. 

Tom was intensely popular throughout Galway, be it among his banking colleagues; those with whom he engaged in GTC and similar business development and promotion organisations; and in the rugby community, where he was a proud member of Galway Corinthians RFC and a keen Connacht supporter. 

Tom understood what was possible when ambitious people came together and, if he believed in something, he threw his full weight behind it. He had a bigger influence than perhaps he realised. May he rest in peace.

In GTC over the past few weeks, we have witnessed a number of community events, including our ‘Doing Business in the US’ breakfast briefing, Galway Chamber’s Business After Hours event and the final stages of our EU Studies programme.

Thomas Langan and Elaine Donovan, Baboro, Rebekah Blackmore, Keltie and John Cunningham, Metashield pictured at the Galway Chamber Business After Hours in the Galway Technology Centre. Photo Martina Regan.

Communities formed around these events. The US business event brought together companies already exporting to America or those who see potential in doing so. Our speakers offered their expertise and insights freely and were only too happy to help others about to embark upon the US trail.

A big thanks to those speakers – Mary Rodgers, Innovation Community Manager at Portershed; John Randles, CEO of Siren, a GTC member company who have just won a major US contract and set up an office in Philadelphia; Connor Kenny from the US Embassy, and the lead advisor on Irish investment in the US on behalf of the Federal government; and Pat O’Grady, Senior Business Development Advisor at Enterprise Ireland.

We hosted Galway Chamber’s Business After Hours event for the first time in GTC. It featured an uplifting talk by Mark O’Donnell, Executive Director, Macnas. Is there a better example than Macnas of how a community can impact far beyond its immediate environs or scope? 

Macnas has become much more than a spectacle and street performance company: it is an enduring symbol of Galway, a motif of what the city has to offer. Over the past 34 years, Macnas has inspired so many people and drawn outstanding creative talents to Galway, as well as developing local talent. The news that it will be touring Gilgamesh, its Galway 2020 show, internationally is very exciting as we can rest assured the company will spread the news of Galway’s wonderful creativity and vibrancy far and wide.

Twenty-one leading professionals across the north and west region of Ireland recently completed an EU Studies Programme in Galway and Brussels. We partnered with the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) and the Irish College in Leuven, Belgium, to run the programme, and, once again, a great sense of camaraderie and common purpose developed among the group members. 

The EU Studies Programme group from the northern and western region of Ireland pictured in Brussels. Left to right: Collr Joe Sheridan, Galway; Turlough Rafferty, GMIT; Geraldine Courtenay, Sligo Chamber; Kenneth Deery, Galway Chamber; Dave Hickey, Galway Chamber; Patrick Devine, NWRA; Collr Donal Gilroy, Sligo; Brendan Mooney, NWRA; Elaine Donohue, BIA Innovator Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway, Frank Greene, GTC; Liam Horan, Sli Nua Careers; Susan Ní Churnáin, Údarás na Gaeltachta; Christine Charlton, Westmeath Co. Co.; Helena Deane, Business Connection Ireland; Niamh Costello, GTC; Ailish Irvine, Irvine Training; John Bartlett, IT Sligo; Elle Gough, Study Abroad Advising; Stephen Carolan, Western Development Commission; Michaela Reilly, Chambers Ireland; Ian Brannigan, Western Development Commission.

All who participated in the programme, which took place over six days in Galway and Brussels, have developed the kind of expertise this region needs to maximise the opportunities available in Europe.

Different people attended each of these events – in fact, some attended more than one – but it is always interesting to see the common characteristics that distinguish each group: a burning interest in a particular topic or field, a desire to interact with others with similar interests, and an appreciation of those who blaze the trails that others can follow.

Our Scaling Masterclass programme brings together companies who have reached a certain point in their evolution and want to go to the next level. Emerging tech companies already employing ten staff members will benefit from the programme we have developed in conjunction with NUI Galway’s J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics. There has been a huge response to our invitation to founders and senior management in growing tech companies to avail of what the programme has to offer.

We are organising a breakfast briefing on how small to medium-sized enterprises can access EU funding on Thursday, February 27th, from 8-9.30am. We will shortly announce full details of the briefing, entitled EU Funding for SMEs. It is part of the Maximise your Growth Potential series at GTC and is being sponsored by PwC Ireland Galway. 

In the next few weeks we will host the National Association of Community Enterprise Centres (NACEC), bringing together people from the enterprise community nationally to begin the implementation of a new national strategic plan for the organisation. We will also run an event with a group from Ohio focussing on the supports they provide to Irish companies looking to establish in the US.

There’s never a dull day here. It genuinely feels like we are in the throes of hugely exciting times for the west of Ireland. All of this activity underlines our desire to act as stimulators of economic activity throughout the region. The people who work here, and those who come here for events, are integral members of our community and we value them very much.