Limerick.ie's Q&A with Gráinne Greehy, the new Director of Policy with Limerick Chamber
Tell us about your background?
I’m originally from Fermoy, Co. Cork and have worked in Cork and Dublin over the years. I moved from Cork to Limerick when I started this role in November.
I studied Business (BBS) in University of Limerick majoring in Economics and Finance, from which I graduated in 2005. Following this, I completed a Masters in Business Economics (MBS) in UCC. In recent years, while working as a researcher on a DAFM project in UCC, I completed a PhD in Commerce.
Prior to commencing my role with the Chamber, I worked as an economic analyst and researcher within government policy (Forfás) and across sectors including education (UCC), professional services (E&Y), health (National Screening Service) and energy (Gas Networks Ireland).
How did you come to work with Limerick Chamber?
The impressive track record of the Chamber in recent years, in influencing policy and helping businesses in Limerick to thrive and prosper, attracted me to this role. I consider this role to be a great opportunity to leverage on my experiences to date, to hopefully make a real contribution to economic growth and development in Limerick, working with our members and business leaders across the region. I am looking forward to meeting various companies and key stakeholders within this role.
What are your key objectives for your new role?
Working closely with the CEO and board of Limerick Chamber, I hope to make a significant positive impact on the economic development of Limerick and the Mid West region, through proactively pursuing and developing policies and lobbying on key policy issues for our members.
What are Limerick Chamber’s policy goals and challenges for the year ahead?
City centre redevelopment is an important priority. The successful completion of the O’ Connell Street Redevelopment project is vital to future-proof our city’s success, which will have positive ripple effects on the region.
Lobbying for more balanced regional development for the Mid West will be another priority area to focus on. Investment in infrastructure is essential to enable the regional cities to become an economic counterbalance to Dublin. Addressing inter-city and intra-city infrastructural deficits will therefore be a key goal. The M20 and, more locally, the Northern Distributor Road are vital pieces of infrastructure necessary to enable further economic growth and development in Limerick.
Other infrastructural deficits that need to be addressed include upgrading the N69, to ensure continued development of our Port, and the N19, to improve access to Shannon Airport.
Where do you see opportunity for Limerick going forward?
The major transformation that Limerick has experienced in recent years looks likely to continue, particularly with the completion of the Limerick 2030 development sites and the redevelopment of O’Connell Street to enhance our city centre.
There are real opportunities for Limerick to leverage off its central location on the Atlantic corridor between Cork and Galway, our trade and tourism connectivity through Shannon Airport and Shannon Foynes Port Company, and our world class third level institutions which provide a talented workforce to support FDI and indigenous companies. All of these growth enablers provide the foundations for positive and sustained growth in Limerick into the future.
From a sectoral perspective, Limerick has further growth potential across a wide range of industries, with key strengths at present in the ICT, Life Sciences, Engineering, and Business Services sectors. Other sectors with great capacity to prosper in Limerick include Sport and Film and Media, particularly with the major production underway at Troy Studios.
What changes have you seen in the business landscape in Limerick over the past number of years?
I believe that both the public and private sectors have become more ambitious, in terms of their growth expectations for Limerick. The region is now perceived as a great place to live, work and invest in. I believe that this newly found positive mindset further strengthens Limerick’s capacity to grow.
Joined-up thinking, further public-private collaboration and implementation of growth enablers, including the M20 and Northern Distributor Road, and progress on the Limerick 2030 sites are necessary to ensure that this recently found ambition comes to fruition.
From a policy point of view, what are the key opportunities and challenges you see for the future in Limerick?
Limerick city has become best-in-class in a number of ways in recent years; stronger FDI investment, and increased employment rates are testaments to this. Limerick’s key assets include a good quality of life, relatively affordable costs of living, an impressive talent pool from the three third level institutions, easy access to national and international markets via Shannon Airport, Shannon Foynes Port Company and a broad range of tourism and culture attractions. These key strengths lay the foundations for future growth opportunities and an even greater number of FDI and indigenous companies choosing to operate in Limerick. That said, continued investment in city centre office and business units is required to ensure Limerick is prepared for potential new investment opportunities which may arise.
A key challenge is ensuring delivery of vital infrastructure projects for Limerick, including the M20, the Northern Distributor Road and the redevelopment of O’Connell Street. Another challenge which must be addressed is housing supply constraints. To this end, the Chamber is working with relevant stakeholders to establish measures which can be taken and initiatives which can be supported, such as the Living City Initiative, to facilitate bringing older properties in the city centre back into use. The restoration of our Georgian Quarter has the potential to considerably enhance the city centre, by bringing life and activity into many currently underutilised historic buildings.
Brexit is another obvious challenge; businesses both large and small are operating in uncharted waters, where planning for the future is complicated by increased uncertainty. To mitigate this, businesses should proactively plan for dealing with Brexit. There are many resources and supports available to businesses in the Mid West to aid this planning process, such as Enterprise Ireland grants. It is important to note that Brexit may also present opportunities for Ireland; it being the only English-speaking country in the EU. Considering the relatively competitive cost of office space in Limerick compared to the overheating capital, there is considerable potential for the Mid West to benefit from companies relocating from the UK. Brexit may also incentivise Irish businesses to enter new markets, beyond the UK.
The recent study conducted by Limerick Chamber with Collins McNicholas found that 93 percent of professionals who move to the mid-west for career opportunities are much happier with their location. What do you think Limerick's key strengths are when attracting people to move here for work?
A better quality of life, career opportunities, shorter commutes, less traffic, lower property prices and living costs, and being centrally located along the Atlantic Corridor are key factors attracting highly-skilled professionals to relocate to the Mid West. I have personally experienced all of these benefits, since relocating to Limerick. Like the 70% of those surveyed, the quicker commute I now experience to work makes my working day less stressful and more enjoyable. It has also been great to see all the new businesses which have opened in the city centre in recent months, which are breathing new life into the city.