2014 was a good year. There were definite signs of recovery, which our own business could see first-hand through our offices in Cork and in Dublin. We were finding that people and businesses may not have had more money to spend, but there was an air of optimism and that there was a willingness to invest once more, in their businesses, in their homes and on themselves.
In Cork there were a number of indicators that have helped generate this air of positivity. Work began on One Albert Quay, by John Cleary Developments and BAM Construction, which is initially creating 300 construction jobs and once the construction phase is completed will accommodate up to 1,800 new workers in the city centre. This is one of the largest projects of its type in the whole of Ireland at the moment.
We saw award-winning Cork entrepreneurs such as Dan and Linda Kiely of VoxPro, growing from strength to strength and announcing that by 2016 they plan to employ 4,000 highly skilled people in Cork.
The Cork Convention Bureau continued to punch above its weight, attracting international conferences to Cork in 2014 to the value of over €9 million.
Work continued on the Cork Marketing Strategy – or Cork INC as people have started to call it, where all of the major stakeholders, led by Cork City and County Councils are looking at more joined up thinking in promoting Cork to Foreign Direct Investors.
As part of this project, the research showed us that Cork is seen as a special place to do business. Not only is it economically viable with an intelligent and motivated workforce on our doorstep thanks to our terrific education institutions, but it is also seen by everyone as a great place to live. When it comes to ‘life success’ which is a combination of career and quality of life, Cork beats most other locations globally, hands down.
When we were working on this project it was fantastic to hear so many people playing back to us what we already knew!
Cork also led the charge in the tourism sector with visitor numbers up and the hospitality sector reporting a busy high season. Visitors flocked to attractions such as the English Market, Blarney Castle and Fota Wildlife Park as well as the wilds of East and West Cork. A lot of visitors know what a special place Cork is!
All of this has made 2014 a good year for people living in Cork. However we can’t just stop at this and we need to be on the front foot and really shake things up and make things happen for ourselves.
As anyone who knows Fuzion and in particular my partner Greg Canty, will know that we are big fans of Jim Collins, the American business consultant and author. Jim’s most famous theory is how “good is the enemy of great”. He believes that good organisations can unwittingly slip into a mind-set of good is good enough and that this complacency can prevent the organisation becoming great.
My wish for Cork in 2015 is that we don’t slip into this mind-set. Cork is perfectly set to take full advantage of the upturn in the economy which now seems to not just be rhetoric, but fact – instead of thinking “good”, let’s plan for “great”.
As a really nice pre-Christmas boost, IBEC announced that economic growth in Ireland is expected to hit nearly 6% in 2014 – the strongest rate in Europe, with continued strong growth predicted in 2015. If Ireland can be the star of Europe why not work together to make Cork the star of Ireland.
Cork stakeholders have a responsibility to make sure that we take full advantage of these positive figures and that this time next year; we are all saying that 2015 was a great year for Cork, that we did not get complacent with “good”, but worked towards being “great”.
I have many things on my wish list for 2015.
One wish is that finally we get going on the much-needed Convention Centre. There have been enough delays on this for a variety of reasons – many of which I can’t fathom – but Cork needs it urgently if we are to be seen as a “great” player in this arena.
Something desperately needs to be done with our amazing city centre. We are passing way too many empty retail units on Patrick Street and even more empty offices on the South Mall and neighbouring streets. I hope that 2015 is the year we see some tangible initiatives to really fill these empty spaces with a creative mix of uses. With some creativity, positive incentives and initiatives and by working together we can get these streets buzzing once again.
Cork Airport is haemorrhaging flights and this flow needs to be stopped in 2015. I think we all know the answer to this one and my hope for Cork Airport in 2015 is that it gets more autonomy from Dublin and becomes an independent airport. Shannon Airport is thriving to the detriment of Cork Airport and this needs to be addressed urgently. Not only do we want access to fantastic destinations for business and pleasure, we also want to see this traffic reciprocated with more overseas visitors able to discover our fantastic city and surrounds through direct access through our state of the art airport.
We have two very proactive and powerful new CEO’s in Ann Doherty for Cork City Council and Tim Lucey for the Cork County Council who need to continue to show us leadership and steer Cork together towards a great year in 2015. They both have vast experience in heading up major organisations and now they need to lead us through positive change and progression.
I would ask that they would be confident and brave and a lot more than just safe pairs of hands. Our local politicians and all other stakeholders must support them in this regard and even allow them to take some risks as they push forward.
A colleague of Fuzion’s in our work on the Cork Marketing Strategy over the past year and a half, Malcolm Allan of Place Matters, puts it brilliantly when he says “if you continue doing the same thing, you will get the same results”. Malcolm is one of the leading global figures in Place Marketing and sees great potential for Cork, but we need to bear his words in mind in 2015.
Let’s make 2015 the year that we really changed things in Cork, taking full advantage of the economic improvements and that we all played our part to make things happen. So much has been invested in plans, consultants, research etc. so let’s make 2015 the year that Cork took major steps to take its rightful place among the leading city regions in Europe and beyond.
My last wish is that all of us genuinely work together and apply a ‘rising tide’ mentality so that overall Cork benefits and not specific interest groups.
Let’s make sure we all have a great year, because Cork and all Corkonians born and bred and those like myself who are lucky enough to be adopted by Cork and to call it home, deserve it.
Lets shake it up!
Deirdre Waldron is a Partner of Fuzion
This post first appeared as an Opinion Piece in the Evening Echo 2-1-15