Fermanagh’s “latent entrepreneurial attitude and flair” was celebrated last Thursday at the official opening of Fermanagh Enterprise’s latest site.
The social enterprise, which aims to support the growth of business in the area, bought the old NI Water site on the Killyhevlin Industrial Estate in November 2013. Since opening in early 2014, it has secured 21 business tenants, with 13 units still available for rent.
“The facility here is fabulous. It’s a superb regeneration of a derelict building,” comments Paul Sheridan, Director of PFP Wealth. “Fermanagh Enterprise really gets local business,” he continues, adding that his clients are happy with the free parking.
Mr. Sheridan convinced his English colleagues to locate a hot-desk facility at the Killyhevlin site and moved in on September 1. “When our team come from Belfast they use this facility,” he points out, adding: “Fermanagh Enterprise make it very easy; they are very supportive and helpful.” He notes the opportunities in the financial services sector locally, with many former Quinn Insurance employees holding valuable skills. Work place pension “is the next big thing,” Mr. Sheridan says. His advice to local business is: “Fermanagh needs to realise that we have to go to the market, the market is not going to come to us. There are well educated people here.” Cathal ÓManacháin set up Cathal.TV in the Killyhevlin Business Centre in July. A subtitling service, it currently provides English subtitles on TG4 programmes such as Bia linn and Tóchair An tSaoil and on some BBC programmes.
Formerly a teacher in Belfast, Cathal and his wife decided to set up a business in Fermanagh, where his wife is from.
“We came across Fermanagh Enterprise on twitter. I’ve always wanted to set up my own business and it’s the type of business that you can do from anywhere. We thought: ‘There’s no better place than Fermanagh’,” he tells The Impartial Reporter.
He is impressed by the new facility, saying: “There’s a great buzz about it in that there are other businesses around me; there’s a great variety of businesses and we can help and advise each other; it makes you feel less alone.” Enniskillen-native Matthew Martin has, with the help of Invest NI, set up a contact centre called Lakeland Trading Solutions, with his business partner Lee Hanford. Based in Unit 28 it provides a service saving customers on every day bills, focusing initially on home insurance and utilities. Matthew plans to create 49 jobs by the end of next year. Enniskillen was up against Bristol and Swansea when Matthew and his business partners were exploring their options. They settled on Enniskillen as it provided the best mix of talent, cost and support. “We have found the Killyhevlin Business Centre a first class location for our business and the positive ‘can do’ attitude which we have experienced from John Treacy and all the staff at Fermanagh Enterprise has been an important facet to our decision to locate here,” Matthew states.
Speaking at the launch, Fermanagh Enterprise General Manager John Treacy pointed to the high rate of business start ups in the county saying: “Last year alone, supported by the Regional Start Programme a total of 176 individuals in Fermanagh completed their business plans. Since 2001, a staggering 2,033 people in Fermanagh have taken the decision to start their own business.” Mr. Treacy pointed to reasonable rents, the fact that a business can leave at one month’s notice and a cluster of businesses providing support to one another as benefits of the site.
The audience heard how Fermanagh Enterprise was formed in 1985 in Enniskillen town centre. In 1998, it began operating from Lackaboy industrial estate, where there are now 48 businesses employing 150 people.
Chairman of Fermanagh Enterprise John O’Kane explained that while the almost 100 per cent occupancy rate at Lackaboy “was undoubtedly an achievement”, it was “paradoxically, also a problem [because], a situation where all units are occupied means unfortunately that there is no space available for future start ups.” Fermanagh Enterprise decided to expand by purchasing the old NI Water site at Killyhevlin Industrial Estate. It was purchased on the open market after initially being put up for sale in April 2012 and the sale was completed in November 2013.
Mr. O’Kane thanked Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster for her support, including her behind-the-scenes work in convincing Lakeland Trading Solutions to locate to Enniskillen. He stated: “Today, a little over a year later, as you can see, [our] vision of a busy thriving business centre is well on the way to reality.”