We were just working to live in Dublin

This is the view of Darren O’Dwyer, who recently made the move to Limerick. Building a house in Adare with his fiancé Clare, Darren has seen his commute drop to just 20 minutes. A graduate of the University of Limerick a decade before, Darren joined WP Engine as Senior Talent Advisor EMEA last year.

WP Engine opened its first Irish office in Limerick in 2016. Headquartered in Austin, Texas with offices in San Antonio TX, London and Brisbane. WP Engine is a WordPress digital experience platform, helping brands to build and deploy creative online sites every day.  Attracting key talent to Limerick was vitally important to the success of the Irish expansion of the company. The Limerick operation has grown from 8 to 30 staff already, with plans to grow to 100 over 3 years.

Limerick City has enjoyed consistently positive employment growth in recent years.  Over 15,750 jobs have been created in the city and county since 2013. The Council’s Limerick 2030 Vision: An Economic and Spatial Plan is spearheading significant regeneration of key sites in the city centre and surrounding areas.
Darren admits he wasn’t aware of how many career opportunities there were in Limerick, not just in WP Engine but also in many of the new pharma, medical devices, tech and financial services companies opening up in the region.

“People looking to move should do their research and see what value they can add to these companies, many of whom offer great benefits such as WP Engine who provide employees with training, healthcare, dental care and a pension.”

As someone who has made the move, Darren is familiar with both the challenges and benefits of moving to the region. “Knowing that we could build a home in the countryside outside Limerick and pay less on the mortgage than we were paying in rent on a two-bed apartment in Dublin was a huge factor for us,” he said.  Another significant draw for Darren was the improved quality of life he knew he could have in Limerick. “We’re able to save money and still go out more – we were never able to save in Dublin, we were just working to live.”

Finally, Darren summed up his experience of leaving Dublin to forge a new life and career in Limerick by saying “It’s been a really positive experience over the last year since moving down and I’m looking forward to many positive years ahead in Limerick.

If you come here and you’re willing to work hard then Limerick’s your oyster.”

How two Sligo men turned a kitchen table into a multi-national software company

World-leading brands turn to SL Controls with three bases along Atlantic Economic Corridor.

In the space of 16 years, SL Controls has grown from a two-person company operating from a kitchen in Sligo to 100 employees across five offices, including three along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Founded by friends Keith Moran and Shane Loughlin in 2002, the company uses its prime locations in Sligo, Galway and Limerick as well as Dublin and Birmingham to expand its market across Ireland, the UK and US.

SL Controls is a specialist software integration firm who integrate and validate software systems into manufacturing and process equipment.

They work with world-leading brands, mostly multinationals in the Pharma, Med Devices, Healthcare, and Food and Beverage sectors.

Their work is considered a game-changer in many areas of engineering, particularly when it comes to Pharmaceutical Serialisation, a method of tracking and tracing prescription drugs which the company is revolutionising to clampdown on the sale of counterfeit products.

Well into its second decade of operation, SL Controls has achieved a lot of what it set out to – expanding to multiple locations and most notably bringing jobs to the west of Ireland.

“The company was founded by two Sligo men, who went to college in Sligo, and so it was our goal to establish our business there with the option of growing into other locations if we wanted,” Managing Director, Keith Moran, says.

“We now have three offices along the west coast and we have had no barriers so far. The combination of infrastructure, which has improved greatly in recent years, and airports and technology means our company is never short of opportunities.”

Keith also credits a strong workforce and college culture as being other benefits of working along the Atlantic corridor.

In addition, the growth of high speed broadband in the region means when freak weather events like Storm Emma hits, employees can work remotely through the company’s Microsoft 365 platform.

“The benefits of working in the west are always growing. With technology, and the fact that I can be at Shannon airport within two hours now to fly to the US, and Knock Airport very quickly for meetings in the UK, we have never had any barriers,” says Keith.

Teaching the next generation that there is a bright future

Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Co Donegal is ensuring that there is a path to prosperity in the region

It fosters one of the most progressive learning environments in Ireland with a reach that is both regional and international.
Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) attracts a diverse student cohort of more than 4,000 students from Ireland and 31 countries across the globe.

“Learners choose to study with LYIT because of our unique ethos that combines academic excellence with career-focused practical experience. It’s an innovative approach that positions our graduates for future success in line with their career and life ambitions,” explains John Andy Bonnar, Head of Development at LYIT.

The Institute also fosters close relationships with the wider North West regional community. Engagement and partnerships with indigenous and international business strengthen student’s prospects in tandem with the prosperity of the region’s economy.

“Our modern integrated campus learning environments in Letterkenny and Killybegs aren’t just gateways to a bright future, but to one of the most breathtaking corners of the world – with Donegal named National Geographic’s ‘Coolest Place on the Planet 2017’,” explains Bonnar.

In addition to world class graduates LYIT also supports the development of the North West City Region’s economy through Research and Innovation initiatives including partnering with businesses on Enterprise Ireland.

LYIT has recently been successful in funded research projects with a range of partners including an EU Horizon 2020 funded Ocean Energy project in association with University College Cork and US company Ocean Renewable Power Corporation.
And an Interreg VA funded Personalised Medicine project in association with Ulster University, Letterkenny General Hospital, CTRIC and Altnagelvin Hospital Derry and many industry partners.

CoLab LYIT’s campus Incubation and Research Centre has supported 150 high potential entrepreneurs successfully launch their businesses over the last decade.

LYIT also supports Tech NorthWest Skillnet a network of 80 technology-based member companies based in Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim. Tech NorthWest provides subsidised training and networking opportunities for members focused on improving business competitiveness and enhancing innovation.

At the heart of an Atlantic axis

EI Electronics is an Irish – and global success story

EI Electronics is one of the largest indigenous companies on the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) with an annual turnover of €200million and 800 employees.

A grand total of 700 of those are based in the Shannon headquarters where manufacturing, research and development and key commercial functions are co-located.

“Since being established in 1988, following a Management buyout from General Electric, our business has expanded organically, and today we rank as one of Ireland’s leading electronics companies with annual sales of €200 million, 5 overseas sales subsidiaries and exporting to 30 countries,” explains Michael Guinee, CEO of EI Electronics.

A truly global indigenous Irish company, all manufacturing, R&D and key commercial functions are co-located in the Shannon Free Zone headquarters.

“Shannon and the AEC have proven to be an optimum location for our business to grow and expand with ready access to a well-educated workforce and excellent transport logistics by road and air,” says Guinee.

“The region offers unrivalled work-life balance opportunities and there are excellent choices for living in the axis from Limerick to Ennis and the villages and towns between.

“We are proud at having established a world leading brand in the niche area of fire and gas detection products, remaining at the forefront of technology and successfully building international markets from our AEC base.

“In the interest of balanced economic development, the AEC is the essential counter-balance to the Dublin region. It is easy to do business from the AEC and with an excellent road network, Dublin is just two hours from Shannon.’’

Take-off for a vital Atlantic hub

Ireland West Airport is looking forward to a bright future

It’s the regional airport that just keeps on growing and it fuels the development of the economy along the Atlantic Economic Corridor.

Ireland West Airport now provides connectivity to over 20 destinations across the UK and Europe, offering the biggest selection of services to the UK from the West and North West of Ireland.

Joe Gilmore, Chief Executive, explains: “Our location as the most westerly airport in the country and our accessibility to the Atlantic corridor and Wild Atlantic Way is highlighted by the fact that over 250,000 overseas visitors came through the airport in 2017 to access the region, generating an economic contribution of over €140million annually for the region.”

Indeed, 2017 was a record breaking year for the airport as it reached a passenger milestone of 750,000 for the first time reinforcing the airports position as the fourth largest airport in Ireland.

Its further strengthened by the support of seven local authorities in the West and North West which recently invested €7.3 million in return for a 17.5 percent shareholding in the airport with the objectives of collaboration and expanding the route network, increasing passenger numbers, tourism bed nights and visitors to the region over the next decade.

“We wish to acknowledge Government’s recognition of the airport as one of the four main airports’ in the country and its position as a critical driver of economic and tourism development for the West and North West of Ireland. We also are pleased that the National Planning Framework highlights the Atlantic Economic Corridor initiative and recognises the significant role of Ireland West Airport in tourism and enterprise development,” adds Joe.

A Wild Atlantic Creation fit for a US President

Sligo jeweller Martina Hamilton’s pieces are inspired by the sea

The Atlantic has inspired many of the world’s finest creators including Sligo award-winning jeweller and goldsmith, Martina Hamilton.

A county of “extraordinary beauty and wealth” is how Martina describes Sligo and it’s clear to see the two are a perfect fit.

That’s because her designs are inspired by the wonderful, ever-changing Atlantic coastal landscape she calls home and by her ancestors who were once surrounded by its active shores on Dernish Island off the north west coast.

Her love of the sea is perhaps most evident in her latest Shore Collection which features imprints in the sand from the tide, periwinkles on rocks, and oysters and pearls.

Well-known gardener and RTE presenter Leonie Cornelius is Martina’s official brand ambassador, illustrating the reach of Atlantic corridor companies far and wide.

Martina said: “I grew up in Lissadell and it’s amazing to see how it has continued to resonate with me. I grew up by the water and going to the beach all the time and I don’t know why it happened that the Atlantic’s inspiration came out through my work, but it’s something that has great meaning inside my gallery.”

She added: “The support that I have received over my career has been through friends and through people with common connections. But I firmly believe that working in groups ultimately ends up being better for everyone involved. Sharing always comes back to you.”

Martina’s collections can be found at her shop The Cat and the Moon in Sligo town, as well as part of Arnotts’ Irish Jewellery Collection, Avoca Stores, Designyard, House of Ireland, Kilkenny Design, Kilkenny Shop and Steensons of Belfast.

Atlantic corridor’s deep history preserved in Tubbercurry

Dutch couple reap rewards of historic region to establish conservation business

A life changes when one moves country and the decision to do so must not be taken lightly.

But so was the pull of the Atlantic lifestyle that Dutchman Benjamin van den Wetering and his wife Ineke Scholte, made the big move to the Ox Mountains of Tubbercurry at the turn of the millennium.

It is here that their company ‘The Ox Bindery’ now offers Institute of Conservators-Restorers in Ireland (ICRI) accredited conservation services to public and private clients.

Some might say the west coast and the artistic couple are a faultless match.

Benjamin, a former art school student, has also studied hand bookbinding and subsequently book and paper conservation in the Netherlands.

Sligo is of course notable for its rich history, particularly in literature.

So when Benjamin, who comes from a family of craftworkers, took an interest in the origins and craft of books it was written in the stars that he settle in the north west.

And as Benjamin and Ineke also now run their own Airbnb, they are also reaping the rewards of the West’s growing tourism market.

“We do have tourists coming for accommodation,” said Benjamin. “I would say Airbnb creates a lot of traction for our book binding business as these people often buy some of our books, but we are aware that what we do is pioneering in the area.”

He added: “Working in the west is rewarding and we get a lot of work done because of its quiet, the peace it offers and its low overhead costs.”

The company recently took part in a project funded by the Heritage Council under the National Lottery good causes fund.

The Ox Bindery expertly conserved various raw materials such as account books from an historic family boat yard.

The notebooks are now in the care of Sligo County Council Local Studies and Archives Section.

With the history of the Atlantic corridor being written every day, its preservation is in the finest hands at Ox Bindery.

Coastal beauty and quality of life sets tone for Portwest

Award-winning Mayo company becomes a world leader, based in the heart of Ireland’s west.

Just like the Wild Atlantic Way, Westport-based company Portwest is steeped in a history and heritage to be envious of.

More than 110 years of experience has given this business a reputation of quality, value and service in a field it has proven to be a world leader in.

That is the design and manufacture of stylish, comfortable and high-quality workwear that meets recognised international standards.

But while Portwest’s hard-working team at its Atlantic corridor headquarters reflects the success the company has achieved to date, it’s hard to look past the business’ award-winning chief executive – Harry Hughes.

Hughes, who runs the company along with his brothers Cathal and Owen, was in 2016 named EY Entrepreneur of the Year, a worthy recipient in the year that the firm recorded €140 million in revenue.

He has credited operating along the Atlantic Economic Corridor as a huge reason his business is able to reap such rewards.

“Westport was built on the linen industry 250 years ago and textiles has been a key industry since then,” Harry told a conference recently.

“Some companies closed due to globalisation, such as the thread and boot factories but there are still four companies operating – Portwest, Carraig Donn, Northern Feather and Popular Linens. These companies employ over 300 directly in textiles in Westport and their off-shoot companies such as hotel and retail employ another 200.”

Among the advantages of Portwest’s location is the quality of life and work balance it offers staff.

In fact, Westport was voted best place to live in Ireland by The Irish Times in 2012. Just last year, it won Tidy Towns’ ‘Best Large Town’.

Hughes has in the past also recognised his company’s close proximity to third level institutes in Mayo, Galway and Sligo who continue to provide top graduates to his industry.

Harry said: “Most towns in rural Ireland do not have these issues. We should be encouraging Dublin companies to have a rural office or facility.

“A vibrant west of Ireland benefits everybody. Tourists do not wish to visit or stay in declining towns. Nobody will invest where there is decline.”

What happens when a big red barn meets a big blue ocean

Mayo company Big Red Barn looks to use Atlantic to its advantage as it targets US market.

The Atlantic is famous for its rough aesthetic with a beauty that both frightens and awes.

But it’s been a much smoother journey for Swinford’s Big Red Barn who design and manufacture innovative modular structures for worldwide events.

Founded by Donal Byrne in 2014, the Mayo giant has been garnering international attention for the pioneering work it does for clients such as grocery trailblazers Lidl, and even the BBC’s Top Gear franchise.

Their pioneering work includes Europe’s first ever two-storey event structure manufactured to withstand all weather conditions.

But the romance of the Atlantic’s beauty is never far away, represented by their “little white chapel” which caters for non-church weddings and smaller events.

It was a conscious decision for Donal to establish a global business in the heart of the west coast, originating in Ballyhaunis and working their way up to the much larger facility that they now occupy in Swinford, just minutes from Knock Airport and the motorway to Dublin.

“I’m a Mayo man through and through and I would have no interest operating this business anywhere else,” Donal says.

“I’m a big fan of the west of Ireland and I just think there is so much to offer here. Everything we need is on our doorstep and that shows in the fact that all my suppliers are local suppliers, with the exception of my timber. We have some of the biggest suppliers in the country operating out of the west coast.”

Donal credits Local Enterprise Offices, the Chamber network and Mayo County Council for giving the Big Red Barn the shove it needed to turn its idea into a viable business venture.

And as the Big Red Barn looks to set sail across the big blue sea, perhaps the US will be seeing more of the Atlantic’s economic corridor.

Writing a new story for Limerick

The Treaty city has used the power of digital to trigger a renaissance.

Publishing relevant and up-to-date content and showcasing Limerick’s unique selling points is the daily job of Limerick.ie.

Set-up to present the Treaty City in a positive light, the website gives information about Limerick City and County Council services.

It also aims to be number one when people search the internet for information on It also aims to be number one when people search the internet for information on Limerick and to showcase the city’s growing reputation as a perfect Atlantic region hub to work and call home.

And judging by how it’s been received the website is delivering in all aspects.

Laura Ryan, Head of Marketing and Communications with Limerick City and County Council explains: “The site has been designed around its users so that each can have their own private log-in and they can create an individualised profile.”

Limerick.ie is setting the foundation for what people can do with the platform and what it can do for them.

It’s developing personalised services in an integrated way so that Limerick can develop the digital city experience for years to come.

Ryan says: “With Limerick’s economic renaissance already anchoring the Mid-West as Ireland’s fastest growing region, the newly developed integrated digital platform – Limerick.ie –is a dynamic window to all key information about life in the resurgent Limerick.”

Indeed the Limerick.ie digital platform is central to building a new ‘Digital Limerick’ by providing citizens with all information about the local authority and how to access its services.

It also acts as the official guide for those visiting the city and county and for people and organisations, including inward investors who want to do business in or with Limerick.

Limerick.ie was launched in April 2017 and was followed by an extensive marketing campaign. Since then it has become a multi-award-winning platform. More than 800,000 unique visitors visited Limerick.ie in 2017 alone.