Limerick.ie's Q&A with Clair Hayes, founder of Capital Limerick, a voluntary organisation promoting the economic and socio-cultural profile of Limerick as the capital of the Mid-West and creating an influential and co-ordinated presence in Dublin to advocate for the Mid-West region.
Tell us about your background?
I am originally from Meanus, Co. Limerick. I attended the FCJ Convent in Bruff before studying Law & French at NUI Galway. I then went on to train as a solicitor in Dublin where I qualified five years ago. I currently work as a senior associate in the corporate and commercial department of Matheson.
How was Capital Limerick formed?
Capital Limerick was an idea I had been cultivating for some time. In early 2016, I felt the timing was ripe to turn the idea into a reality. I used my network to arrange a meeting of eight like-minded professionals and business people in Dublin who were willing to buy-in to the idea of Capital Limerick and its potential.
Why did you want to get involved?
As a very proud Limerick person, I was often very disappointed with people’s negative perceptions of Limerick and the impact that that was having on its economic and socio-cultural profile, both nationally and internationally. Capital Limerick was borne out of a desire to do something to change those perceptions and to promote Limerick and the Mid-West as a fantastic place in which to live, work and do business. We felt that Dublin was as good a place as any to start.
How important it is to get the Limerick message across in Dublin?
It is extremely important to promote Limerick and the Mid-West region in Dublin and indeed further afield. In fact, from an economic perspective, it has never been so timely. With Dublin at saturation point, a real opportunity presents itself for the Mid-West to win foreign direct investment and investment arising from domestic expansion but also to retain our local start-ups and SMEs who might otherwise move to Dublin. With Dublin fast becoming less attractive to tourists (particularly given the cost of hotel rooms in the city), there is also an opportunity for the Mid-West from a tourism perspective. It’s hugely important that the Mid-West is promoted nationally and internationally to increase the amount of tourists visiting the region and that Shannon Airport sees a corresponding increase in passenger numbers.
How many members are now in Capital Limerick?
Capital Limerick was formed we had a core group of 8 committee members which has now grown to 12. We have had three sell out events to date and our network of contacts has grown exponentially in a 12 month period. There were nearly 300 people in attendance at the last event in the InterContinental which demonstrates the appetite that is there to promote Limerick and the Mid-West region further afield. There are tens of thousands of people in Dublin with a connection to, or interest in, the Mid-West so the potential is huge. By reaching only a fraction of those people, we have already created an influential and co-ordinated presence in Dublin to advocate for Limerick and the Mid-West region.
We have been successful in promoting Limerick and the Mid-West through the events we have hosted and the positive national media coverage generated around those events. For example, following the reports published by the Irish Independent on the “Financial Services in the Mid-West” event last March, we were contacted by a consultant in London preparing a report on potential post-Brexit relocation options and we were delighted to be able to promote Limerick as a viable option and to put them in touch with the appropriate bodies and organisations.
Some of your previous events included speakers and attendees including Trish Long of the Walt Disney Company, University of Limerick’s Dr. Stephen Kinsella, and former EU Parliament President, Pat Cox. What impact do you believe it can make having such highly esteemed people engaging with each other through Capital Limerick?
We feel it’s important to develop a forum where leaders such as these can come together to discuss the potential (and indeed the realities) facing the region. These discussions provide a platform to make connections, harness creative energy and create new opportunities through collaboration. Those who have attended the events will have witnessed the engaging and passionate discussions had by our panels.
In addition, the support of our most successful diaspora has the potential to be extremely impactful in terms of “selling the message” nationally and internationally. We would like to mobilise more of those people to use their profile and influence to promote Limerick and the Mid-West publically, amongst their peers and internally within their business.
We have been fortunate to win the support of some very high profile and influential professionals and business people in Dublin. Since the inception of Capital Limerick, we’ve seen real evidence of how people can use their influence and profile to the benefit of Limerick and the Mid-West. For example, Insurance Ireland (which is headed up by Limerick man Kevin Thompson) recently circulated an article to its tens of thousands of international and domestic insurance members on the “flourishing” financial services offering in the region.
Does Capital Limerick have any plans/projects coming up you can share with us?
Since the Capital Limerick lunch in November, we have had a number of very interesting discussions with various individuals and organisations and there are certainly a few ideas brewing. We have, on behalf of a number of bodies, requested a meeting with Minister Eoghan Murphy to demonstrate concerns in relation to the national planning framework. Early next year, we will work with Limerick Chamber of Commerce who are hosting a careers expo here in Dublin. It’s a great opportunity to make connections for people in our network who might be looking to relocate back to the Mid-West.
What changes have you seen in the business landscape in Limerick over the past number of years?
Limerick is really rejuvenated over the last number of years. The number of international companies that have chosen Limerick sends out a signal internationally that Limerick really is the commercial hub of the Mid-West. It is testament to the collective and collaborative work of many stakeholders including the IDA, Limerick City & County Council and the Limerick Chamber of Commerce.
Just as significant is Limerick people’s renewed confidence in Limerick. After all, we can really only sell Limerick’s message if we believe it ourselves. It’s extremely encouraging to see that our own attitude to Limerick has started to change and our quiet (but not extinct) pride is starting to emerge.
What do you think Limerick’s main strengths are for attracting investment and growth?
We are in an unrivalled position when it comes to global connectivity outside of Dublin - I think Shannon Airport plays a key role in attracting future investment and growth.
I also believe that Limerick has an extraordinary talent pool derived from our superb schools and third level institutions and that our third level institutions play a pivotal role in driving future productivity and economic growth.
Most of all, I think Limerick’s greatest asset is its people who are some of the most warm, friendly and welcoming people in the world.
If people want to join Capital Limerick, what can they do?