Managed Design Solutions – An equilibrium of family and work

Pace of life and quality family time was an important factor for Julian Drapiewski and Jonathan Grimes when they decided to establish a digital design management consultancy firm in County Galway.

“Living in the West of Ireland is very affordable and it’s a good place to bring up children without having any negative effect on our work,” says Julian. “It’s refreshing to know you can operate a tech-based company while still reaping all the benefits of living and working in rural areas where you don’t have to worry about urban factors,” agrees Jonathan.

Managed Design Solutions, which specialises in Building Information Modelling (BIM) for the construction industry and wastewater sector, was set up by co-founders Julian and Jonathan in 2018 and is now based in the Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre, at the heart of the Atlantic Economic Corridor. “Ballinasloe is a great location for encouraging potential employees and reaching clients because it has access to the Dublin and Galway motorways and it’s on the train to Dublin,” says Julian.

Originally from Poland, Julian and his wife moved to Athenry, Co Galway in 2004. For Julian, Maya and their four young children, Galway is home and being able to work close to home, near to the Atlantic coast and without battling traffic, is his dream scenario. “Jonathan and I both want to be available to our families and as entrepreneurs we have lots of flexibility in our work, but it wouldn’t be possible to have the same lifestyle in Dublin.”

Jonathan, who lives in Glenamaddy, Co Galway with his fiancée and daughter, says: “The centre has provided me with a highly affordable base close to home without having to compromise in regard to facilities, IT set up or potential for attracting employees. It’s great to feel that you can be part of encouraging the development of what is traditionally seen as a rural part of the country.”

Nuns’ Island Masterplan

Galway City Council and NUI Galway are working together to prepare a masterplan for the Nuns’ Island area of Galway City.

The plan aims to create a strategy for a structured approach to regeneration of the former industrial area as a key pillar in the economic and innovative growth of Galway City and the wider Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) region. The area currently has a number of uses including residential, educational, commercial, civic and cultural as well as a number of disused buildings, many of which are in the ownership of NUI Galway, unused spaces and a valuable public realm, which includes a number of waterways. The masterplan will investigate the potential to optimise the use of this underutilised city centre space through the appropriate mix of redevelopment and public realm spaces. It will identify the opportunity for new spaces and open the waterways at the heart of Nuns’ Island with the potential to further enhance Galway’s reputation as a global landmark destination of quality. This process will result in a vision framework with options for regenerating the area. Community, educational, cultural, economic, start-up, environmental, residential and social uses are all under consideration in the master plan.

Audit of Ennis

The Audit of Ennis has been completed with 92 properties identified.

Data from the audit has been used to inform the working draft of the Ennis 2040 – An Economic and Spatial Strategy for Ennis Town and environs which will guide development to 2040 and will focus and agree on an economic future and spatial pattern for the town, and ensure a clear economic vision and framework to achieve this vision. Work is ongoing on the Audit of Shannon with 87 vacant properties identified to date.

Developing a key hub

Shannon is a key national and international centre of importance for employment, connectivity, international trade and foreign direct investment and is home to the largest aerospace and aviation cluster in Ireland, which currently consists of over 80 firms and is growing steadily.

With the development of the International Aviation Services Centre (IASC), continued expansion of services at Shannon International Airport, and the planned enhancements of the green infrastructure network and public realm improvements in the town, including the development of a Masterplan for the town of Shannon, there are significant opportunities for growth and to become a Centre of Economic Importance along the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC). Shannon Free Zone, the largest multi-sectoral business park outside of Dublin, is 60 years old this year and is the base for some of the world’s leading companies in ICT, engineering, medical devices, manufacturing and financial services sectors.

DigiWest Working Hubs in Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon and Donegal

The WDC will lead the Digiwest regional economic development project to develop digital working hubs in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, Tulsk, Co Roscommon and Swinford, Co Mayo.

The funding is part of €62 million in funding for Rural Regeneration and Development projects across the country, and it aligns with the ongoing work along the Atlantic Economic Corridor, as set out in the National Planning Framework.

The Digiwest project is an excellent example of regional collaboration where four Local Authorities, working with the Western Development Commission and the Department of Rural and Community Development will be enabling and supporting communities to work in the digital economy. The collaboration will offer facilities and services that will meet community and business needs, to maintain and develop vibrant communities in the Western Region.

Enterprise Hubs Survey

An ongoing project, funded through the Dormant Accounts Fund, aimed at building a profile of enterprise hubs operating in the Atlantic Economic Corridor which has now identified 101 enterprise hubs.

The Department of Rural and Community Development working together with the AEC Co-ordination Team initially identified 72 enterprise hubs in the AEC. Further work by the AEC Officers and Údaras na Gaeltachta added a further 29 hubs.

This collaborative data-gathering was followed up by a survey of the managers in the hubs identified. The AEC Co-ordination team is now using this survey data to produce a profile of the hubs in the AEC as a regional economic asset for the AEC as a whole.

The next steps will see the development of an overarching strategy to support and co-ordinate the development of these hubs into a collaborative network. This will involve classifying different types of hubs (social enterprise hubs, digital workspaces etc.), working with hub managers to identify solutions to challenges hubs face and developing agreed quality standards for hubs in the network. Hubs will also be supported to implement ‘hub improvement plans’ to meet these standards. The hub network will also offer real opportunities to identify and develop shared branding and marketing, events and networking and supports for both hub clients and staff.

277 Enterprise Spaces Mapped along the Atlantic Economic Corridor

AEC Officers in each of the 10 Local Authorities throughout the AEC, part funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development, have surveyed available enterprise spaces in a pilot town in each county. The initiative, under the Enterprise Space Subgroup, utilises a Collector App which was developed by Mayo County Council.

The enterprise spaces include; offices, industrial warehouses and buildings, greenfield and brownfield development and strategic sites. The information collected includes details on the property type, age, size, condition, construction type, ownership/tenancy, services, fit-out standard, car parking, current, past and permitted use, and the surrounding area. This provides users of the App with information vital to decision-making, re-purposing and development of enterprise stock and to informing strategic town planning. It will be an invaluable source of information for potential investors and businesses in developing and growing their business or relocating to the Atlantic region.


* As well as identifying vacant industrial and enterprise units and Brownfield sites, the Ennis Audit also includes town centre offices and a significant number of undeveloped sites zoned for Enterprise and Light Industry in the Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023.

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.”